When I was leetle, my mom read us the story of Wind in the Willows–the Mole who left during spring cleaning and the Toad who was enraptured with motor-cars and the baby Otter who was lost one day. As with many things, sometimes those memories come back at funny times. My siblings and I will occasionally solemnly sing the Song of Toad’s return to each other, “When the…TOAD…came…HOME.” Last summer, riding through the rain on PALM, we picked which of our friends would act as which character, if we were to put on the story as a play.
One thing that I often recall, though, is the one where Water Rat (<3) is restless. I think about it, but I don’t have it memorized or anything, so I looked up the passage today. Want to read it? I found an open source. This next bit by Kenneth Grahame, ya’ll, not me.
Please note, this is from a book. All of us accustomed to reading the internet–stop for a second. Close your eyes and inhale and exhale a deep breath. It’ll remind you that you’re an alive and astounding human being and you can use your brain and take your time and enjoy this beautiful, beautiful writing:
“The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why. To all appearance the summer’s pomp was still at fullest height, and although in the tilled acres green had given way to gold, though rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed here and there with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chilly premonitions of the passing year. But the constant chorus of the orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few yet unwearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change and departure. The cuckoo, of course, had long been silent; but many another feathered friend, for months a part of the familiar landscape and its small society, was missing too and it seemed that the ranks thinned steadily day by day. Rat, ever observant of all winged movement, saw that it was taking daily a southing tendency; and even as he lay in bed at night he thought he could make out, passing in the darkness overhead, the beat and quiver of impatient pinions, obedient to the peremptory call.
“Nature’s Grand Hotel has its Season, like the others. As the guests one by one pack, pay, and depart, and the seats at the table-d’hote shrink pitifully at each succeeding meal; as suites of rooms are closed, carpets taken up, and waiters sent away; those boarders who are staying on, en pension, until the next year’s full re-opening, cannot help being somewhat affected by all these flittings and farewells, this eager discussion of plans, routes, and fresh quarters, this daily shrinkage in the stream of comradeship. One gets unsettled, depressed, and inclined to be querulous…”
Want to read the rest? Here’s a copy of the full text. You could also check it out of the library, I’m sure.
I read the rest of the chapter. I had forgotten it. It’s bittersweet, really. (Chapter nine, for those following along at home). Water Rat meets a Rat who has sailed near and far! Spain! Sicily! All over! My heart ached with Water Rat’s heart. Sailor Rat shared story after story, and Water Rat shared some cheese and French bread. Eventually, Water Rat was convinced, and he went to pack and leave. But, Mole stopped him and held him down and the wanderlust spell was broken, so Water Rat just sat there, at home, sad and grey.
Later that evening, Mole comes by and mentions that Water Rat hasn’t written poetry in a while, and, why doesn’t he try that again?
At first Water Rat refuses, but Mole leaves the pencil anyway; and, later that evening, he sees that Water Rat has started writing poetry again.
Just for a second can we say that THAT’S KIND OF SAD, isn’t it?
“Well, you could go off and have adventures, but, instead, here’s a pencil and a piece of paper.”
This time of year, I get antsy, too. I examine everything: my job, my weight, my music and I’m like, “Are these the right things?? Should they look different?”
I’ve talked about this to people. And a lot of them say that they have this autumn-angst, too: the woman who cuts my hair, and the priest who deals with all the sh** I hand him, and on and on. It’s a thing. My sister-in-law would say: start taking Vitamin D again. It’ll help with the lessened sunlight. Mole would say: pick up the pencil. Write some poetry.
As for me? I don’t know what I’d say.
But, I did put on socks for the first time today in months and months, to keep my feet warm.
Maybe the story of Water Rat in the fall is this: we can only have so many of the things. He could leave for Spain and Sicily, but then he wouldn’t have the Christmas party memories at Toad’s house with his friends. He might not have time to write the poetry. We all need to make decisions. And the ones you pick stop other ones from happening–like it or not.
I guess I’m just not sold that he picked the better thing. One of the last things the Sailor Rat said to him was this:
‘And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. 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. You can easily overtake me on the road, for you are young, and I am ageing and go softly. I will linger, and look back; and at last I will surely see you coming, eager and light-hearted, with all the South in your face!’
Someone send me a Mole. Hold me back. 🙂 They say this winter will be worse than the last.
I kind of feel like finding a Sailor Rat.
Oh, and, while we’re talking poetry, these are two of my favorite-ever autumn poems:
Your pick. 🙂 Enjoy, poets.