Nevertheless, there is (at bottom) a motive for adoration, in the study of the lowest fruits of the wisdom and power of God. The leaf is as much beyond our comprehension of remote causes, as much a subject of intelligent admiration, as the tree which bears it: the single tree confounds our knowledge and researches the same as the entire forest; and, though a variety that appears to be endless pervades the world, the same admirable adaptation of means to ends, the same bountiful forethought, and the same benevolent wisdom, are to be found in the acorn, as in the gnarled branch on which it grew.
The American forest has so often been described, as to cause one to hesitate about reviving scenes that might possibly pall, and in retouching pictures that have been so frequently painted as to be familiar to every mind. But God created the woods, and the themes bestowed by his bounty are inexhaustible. Even the ocean, with its boundless waste of water, has been found to be rich in its various beauties and marvels; and he who shall bury himself with us, once more, in the virgin forests of this widespread land, may possibly discover new subjects of admiration, new causes to adore the Being that has brought all into existence, from the universe to its most minute particle.
The precise period of our legend was in the year 1812, and the season of the year the pleasant month of July, which had now drawn near to its close. The sun was already approaching the western limits of a wooded view, when the actors in its opening scene must appear on a stage that is worthy of a more particular description.
The region was, in one sense, wild, though it offered a picture that was not without some of the strongest and most pleasing features of civilization. The country was what is termed “rolling,” from some fancied resemblance to the surface of the ocean, when it is just undulating with a long “ground-swell.”
Although wooded, it was not, as the American forest is wont to grow, with tail straight trees towering toward the light, but with intervals between the low oaks that were scattered profusely over the view, and with much of that air of negligence that one is apt to see in grounds where art is made to assume the character of nature. The trees, with very few exceptions, were what is called the “burr-oak,” a small variety of a very extensive genus; and the spaces between them, always irregular, and often of singular beauty, have obtained the name of “openings”; the two terms combined giving their appellation to this particular species of native forest, under the name of “Oak Openings.”