As we’re deep into Spring, I want to share one of my favorite passages from The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908.
At the beginning of the story, Mole has been working hard all morning cleaning his little underground home. But Spring is moving in the air all around him “penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its divine discontent and longing.” So…
“…he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, “Bother!” and “O blow!’ and also “Hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.”
Next, Grahame describes Mole’s ascent from the world below ground to the world above ground, and it sounds like a new birth.
“So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ Till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of the great meadow. “This is fine” he said to himself. “This is better than whitewashing.” The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow and…the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow…”
As he makes his way across the meadow, Mole sees so many things, and “It all seemed too good to be true.” But then…
“He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—the sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.”
Mole walked along the river and finally got tired and “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.”
I’ll just make three brief comments.
First of all, this is just gorgeous, delightful, playful, imaginative writing.
Second, it seems to me that this passage brings us about as close as we are likely to get to the mindset of a child who experiences the natural world as fresh, alive and magical.
And third, I like the way this passage reaffirms and reinforces the joy of living that comes so naturally to small children.
Samuel Johnson said, “The love of life is necessary to the vigorous prosecution of any undertaking.” I think he is absolutely right. Nurturing the joy of living and the love of life is good preparation for any possible future career.
Geoffery Alan Moore