I am currently reading, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Nobody writes quite like this guy. He comes from an era before the mass media (although newspapers did exist), and therefore he takes on the role of writer, professor, and the internet all in one person.
Anyway, as it is now early spring, I was taken with the gorgeous passage describing a single, overgrown garden in Paris:
“…In Floreal this enormous thicket, free behind its gate and within its four walls, entered upon the secret labor of germination, quivered in the rising sun, almost like an animal which drinks in the breaths of cosmic love, and which feels the sap of April rising and boiling in its veins, and shakes to the wind its enormous wonderful green locks, sprinkled on the damp earth, on the defaced statues, on the crumbling steps of the pavilion, and even on the pavement of the deserted street, flowers like stars, dew like pearls, fecundity, beauty, life, joy, perfumes. At midday a thousand white butterflies took refuge there, and it was a divine spectacle to see that living snow whirling about there in flakes amid the shae. There in those gay shadows of verdure, a throng of innocent voices spoke sweetly to the soul, and what the twittering forgot to say the humming completed. In the evening, a dreamy vapor exhaled from the garden and enveloped it; a shroud of mist, a calm and celestial sadness covered it; the intoxicating perfume of the honeysuckles and convolvulus poured out of every part of it, like an exquisite and subtle poison; the last appeals of the woodpeckers and wagtails were audible as they dozed among the branches; one felt the sacred intimacy of the birds and the trees; by day the wings rejoice the leaves, by night the leaves protect the birds.
In winter the thicket was black, dripping, bristling, shivering, and allowed some glimpse of the house. Instead of flowers on the branches and dew in the flowers, the long silvery tracks of the snails were visible on the cold, thick carpet of yellow leaves; but in any fashion, under any aspect, at all seasons, spring, winter, summer, autumn, this tiny enclosure breathed forth melancholy, contemplation, solitude, liberty, the absence of man, the presence of God; and the rusty old gate had the air of saying: “This garden belongs to me.”
It was of no avail that the pavements of Paris were on every side… forty years of abandonment… had sufficed to restore to the privileged spot ferns, mulleins, hemlock, yarrow, tall weeds, great crimped plants, with large leaves of pale green cloth, lizards, beetles, uneasy and rapid insects; to cause to spring forth from the depths of the earth and between those four walls a certain indescribable and savage grandeur; and for nature, which disconcerts the petty arrangements of man, and which sheds herself always thoroughly where she diffuses herself at all, in the ant as well as in the eagle, to blossom out in a pretty little Parisian garden with as much rude force and majesty as in a virgin forest of the New World.
Nothing is small, in fact: anyone who is subject to the profound and penetrating influence of nature knows this…”
(Victor Hugo, 1862)