Tag Archives: The Wind in the Willows

Marginalia, no.103

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.

~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

For weeks now my children and I have been arguing whether humans are animals.  I insist that they are.  They disagree, and disagree.  And strongly disagree.  They raise their voices, get red in the face and slam their little fists on the table.  I explain that humans are, after all, classified as mammals, among the primates, and that even though we are (I admit) animals of a special sort and not like the others in some very important ways, we’re still animals.  “People are NOT animals!” my son will say.  “Monkeys think it’s okay to fling poo around but people know better!”  As if that proves anything.  People fling poo of one sort or another too, of course, but I don’t want to disabuse him of the notion of human decency just yet.  Sister is squarely in brother’s court.  Even if she sometimes thinks me “so very wise” (as she put it the other night), she seethes with righteous fury: “No, Papa!” (she’s actually yelling) “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, AND ANIMALS ARE ANIMALS!”  Faced with such violent dogmatism I almost want to relent, if only to keep the peace.  But then who wouldn’t really rather be an animal?  If it meant, just now, that so much less would be expected of me, nothing strenuous or heroic, that I could curl up by the fire with a book and sleep late every morning, then I say – Sign me up.

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Marginalia, no.94

The Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the plowed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot.  For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict that went with Nature in the rough.  He must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.

~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Mole had to leave home before he could see that it really was home after all.  Maturity presents itself as the acceptance of finitude, a shutting of the eyes against (in Updike’s words) “the immense tinted pity, the waste, of being at one little place instead of everywhere.”  And yet it’s distance, of the mind or the body, that fosters delight.  The art and scope of others are always foreign countries, but while travels abroad may be enriching, the richest moment in any journey is to first turn your eyes toward home again.

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