Down Nature's Paths



I ONCE read a perfect definition: "A seed is a plant packed for transportation.

The Creator has many and diverse methods of packaging, labeling, and advertising. Seeds are variously packed for different kinds of transportation. Buds, on the other hand, He packs for storage, fitting each container to the place and hazards of deposit.

Before ever the cold winds and rains and the explosive frosts of winter came upon His trees, shrubs, and perennial plants, He had this spring's leaves and flowers perfectly packed against dampness, freezing, and wind damage. Before the leaves fell last autumn, each one had its successor cradled at its base.

Talk about streamlining to avoid wind resistance and damage! Buds had it before Fisher bodies. Beech buds spend their winters on the tips of slender twigs, stuck right out into the gales. But the sharp-pointed, wind-resistant slimness of beech buds is a delightsome sight. Pussy willow flower buds, made chubby by their furry contents, are ranged along stout, sturdy stems as wide as they are. Dogwood buds, which, because they hold both flowers and their surrounding colored bracts, must be big and fat and yet must be at the ends of twigs, are saved from pounding by winter winds by swinging stems instead of the stiff wands of the pussy willows. Willows, the flower buds of which are less obese than the pussies, hang them on swaying boughs. Packages and storage places planned last autumn have functioned all winter till this spring in fulfilling God's primeval promise: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest . . . shall not cease."

No parachute packing can excel the folding of tiny leaves into their containers. Examine unfolding buds this month and note how the skeletal veins of the leaf supported the pressure of the bud case, the tender flat surfaces of the baby leaf being safe in the internal space of the bud. A bursting buckeye bud will well repay a thoughtful quarter hour of contemplation of divine mechanics. The first Chinese folding-fan or umbrella makers probably studied buds as their models.

Bud beauty feasts souls with observant eye-windows. No society belles look more regal than colorful hickory buds lifting their curved shoulders from their fur-lined satin winter capes. Oak-leaf buds are warmly clothed in royal crimson velvet in that combination of utilitarian service and aesthetic loveliness that characterizes the ways of God.

Delivery time of God's packages beats human "special delivery." Big, furry flower buds, not easily freezable, open early. Maple buds open early and mature their seeds swiftly, so that even though spring storms beat off multitudes of their winged twins, the tough, parchment-like seed coverings achieve for their contents a minimum of damage from cold and wet. Big-boned walnut and hickory buds, the structures of which require great strength to support immense compound leaves, open very late to escape frost damage.

God's name is written on every bursting bud. The labels on His bud-storage boxes are love of beauty, love of life, and perfect functionalism.