When the summer wind stirred the lilacs in the old gardens and
shook down the blooms of the horse-chestnuts, Father Latour sometimes
closed his eyes and thought of the high song the wind was singing
in the straight, striped pine trees up in the Navajo forests.
During the day his nostalgia wore
off, and by dinnertime it was quite gone. He enjoyed his dinner
and his wine, and the company of cultivated men, and usually
retired in good spirits. It was in the early morning that he
felt the ache in his breast; it had something to do with walking
in the early morning.It seemed to him that the gray dawn lasted
so long here, the country was a long while in coming to life.
The gardens and the fields were damp, heavy mists hung in the
valley and obscured the mountains; hours went by before the sun
could disperse those vapours and warm and purify the villages.
In New Mexico he always awoke
a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize
he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of
the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance
of the hot sun and sage-brush and sweet clover; a wind that made
one's body feel light and one's heart cry "To-day, to-day"
like a child's.
Beautiful surroundings, the society
of learned men, the charm of noble women. the graces of art,
could not make up to him for the loss of those light-hearted
mornings in the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again.
He had noticed that this peculiar quality in the air of new countries
vanished after they were tamed by man and made to bear harvests.
Parts of Texas and Kansas that he had first known as open range
had since been made into rich farming districts, and the air
had quite lost that likeness, that dry aromatic odour. The moisture
of the plowed land, the heaviness of labour and growth and grain-bearing,
utterly destroyed it; one could breath that only on the bright
edges of the world, on the grass plains or the sage-brush desert.
. . .