The Wind Is In The Willows
I have always been amazed at the sagacity of the little animals that forever reside within the pages of The Wind in the Willows. Ratty, Mole, Otter, Toad. Perhaps it is merely that I seem to share so many of their sensibilities - about home, about travel, about friendship and, well, about life in general, but I find them utterly reliable and true. How often I have sat, wrapped up snugly before the fire on a frosty winter’s night, watching jack-o-lantern orange flames paint wild dancing shadows on the ceiling above me, without one shred of remorse for my appalling lack of industry, when these highly apropos words come wafting through my mind, “No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter”.
Mr. Mole seemed to materialize alongside me the May morning I visited Sissinghurst garden in Kent. So beautiful it was, I fairly skipped along the water’s edge at the end of the lemon-lime walk, nearly astonished to be present in a place I’d only imagined existed in books, when those old familiar words came back to me, words that described such a similar scene, though one experienced by a fictitious mole… “The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
Oh, the times when, thinking myself clever, I’ve done something rash and have figuratively turned up in an ungraceful pile on the side of the road, so like Mr. Toad in my foolishness and and folly, and heard, faintly, like the whisper of pages turning, the pitiful “Poop-Poop” of that dear, infuriating amphibian.
Or, how grateful I’ve been on countless occasions to have The Songwriter in my life, someone who has always promised, just as the stalwart friend, Mr. Otter, “It'll be all right, my fine fellow”…… "I'm coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there's a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch it.”
And then, whenever contemplating a far-flung journey or mysterious path, there comes the voice I’ve often heard, just as Ratty himself once heard before me,… “Take the Adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!’ ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new! Then some day, some day long hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drained and the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for company.”
So it was inevitable, of course. If one is foolish enough to listen to Alan Bennett read The Wind in the Willows whilst one is attempting a bout of strenuous spring cleaning, one will naturally begin to strongly identify with Mr. Mole. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m one of those odd ones who actually enjoys spring cleaning. The throwing open of windows, the polishing-shaking-gleaming-shining - the filling of vases with yellow flowers, the gathering up of pink china on which to place cakes with white icing and strawberries dusted with snowfalls of sugar…. it all makes me very happy. But a few days ago, just as I was kneading a batch of Chocolate Babka for Easter and contemplating an appallingly high stack of linen shirts to be ironed, I heard , “The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor and said, ‘Bother’ and ‘Oh, blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning’ and bolted out of the house without even bothering to put on his coat.”
And I simply could not resist doing precisely the same thing.
Particularly as it's my birthday tomorrow and no one should spring-clean on their birthday.
I will relate my adventure next week.
Till then, listen to this wise, utterly delightful, story for yourself.
There is simply no telling what you’ll get up to this week.