ONE time I thought of naming this collection Cedar-Plums Like (which I still fancy wouldnt have been a bad name, nor inappropriate.) A melange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, travelinga little thinking thrown in for salt, but very littlenot only summer but all seasonsnot only days but nightssome literary meditationsbooks, authors examined, Carlyle, Poe, Emerson tried, (always under my cedar-tree, in the open air, and never in the library)mostly the scenes everybody sees, but some of my own caprices, meditations, egotismtruly an open air and mainly summer formationsingly, or in clusterswild and free and somewhat acridindeed more like cedar-plums than you might guess at first glance.
But do you know what they are? (To city man, or some sweet parlor lady, I now talk.) As you go along roads, or barrens, or across country, anywhere through these States, middle, eastern, western, or southern, you will see, certain seasons of the year, the thick woolly tufts of the cedar mottled with bunches of china-blue berries, about as big as fox-grapes. But first a special word for the tree itself: everybody knows that the cedar is a healthy, cheap, democratic wood, streakd red and whitean evergreenthat it is not a cultivated treethat it keeps away mothsthat it grows inland or seaboard, all climates, hot or cold, any soilin fact rather prefers sand and bleak side spotscontent if the plough, the fertilizer and the trimming-axe, will but keep away and let it alone. After a long rain, when everything looks bright, often have I stopt in my wood-saunters, south or north, or far west, to take in its dusky green, washd clean and sweet, and speckd copiously with its fruit of clear, hardy blue. The wood of the cedar is of usebut what profit on earth are those sprigs of acrid plums? A question impossible to answer satisfactorily. True, some of the herb doctors give them for stomachic affections, but the remedy is as bad as the disease. Then in my rambles down in Camden country I once found an old crazy woman gathering the clusters with zeal and joy. She showd, as I was told afterward, a sort of infatuation for them, and every year placed and kept profuse bunches high and low about her room. They had a strange charm on her uneasy head, and effected docility and peace. (She was harmless, and lived near by with her well-off married daughter.) Whether there is any connection between those bunches, and being out of ones wits, I cannot say, but I myself entertain a weakness for them. Indeed, I love the cedar, anyhowits naked ruggedness, its just palpable odor, (so different from the perfumers best,) its silence, its equable acceptance of winters cold and summers heat, of rain or drouthits shelter to me from those, at timesits associations(well, I never could explain why I love anybody, or anything.) The service I now specially owe to the cedar is, while I cast around for a name for my proposed collection, hesitating, puzzledafter rejecting a long, long string, I lift my eyes, and lo! the very term I want. At any rate, I go no furtherI tire in the search. I take what some invisible kind spirit has put before me. Besides, who shall say there is not affinity enough between (at least the bundle of sticks that produced) many of these pieces, or granulations, and those blue berries? their uselessness growing wilda certain aroma of Nature I would so like to have in my pagesthe thin soil whence they cometheir content in being let alonetheir stolid and deaf repugnance to answering questions, (this latter the nearest, dearest trait affinity of all.)
Then reader dear, in conclusion, as to the point of the name for the present collection, let us be satisfied to have a namesomething to identify and bind it together, to concrete all its vegetable, mineral, personal memoranda, abrupt raids of criticism, crude gossip of philosophy, varied sands and clumpswithout bothering ourselves because certain pages do not present themselves to you or me as coming under their own name with entire fitness or amiability. (It is a profound, vexatious, never-explicable matterthis of names. I have been exercised deeply about it my whole life.)1
After all of which the name Cedar-Plums Like got its nose put out of joint; but I cannot afford to throw away what I pencilld down the lane there, under the shelter of my old friend, one warm October noon. Besides, it wouldnt be civil to the cedar tree.