Monday 15 April 2013

Monday 15th April - New Term Begins Today

Hello, countryside! How I've missed watching the Spring seep over the fields and through the hedges!

Although, for all I know, the bitter cold weather over Easter may well have frozen most of that seepage. However, yesterday and today were so different, I might have been in a different country altogether.

Today was sunny and damp by turns, but always warm. The hedgerows appeared to have a delicate emerald green blossom; yes, I know it is just leaves, but the tiny green flecks on the twigs looked just like the white May-flowers.

There was a huge specimen Horse Chestnut at the entrance to a country house, with the leaves all exploded out of they sticky buds like great ornamental tassels.

The long drooping branches of the willow trees are outlined with pale yellow-green slips of new leaf.

Verges and banks are a carpet of primroses.

Oh stop! stop! It sounds like the beginning of Wind in the Willows!

Wind in the Willows


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 in 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, said `Bother!' and `O blow!' and also `Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. 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 a 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 after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in for so long 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 till he reached the hedge on the further side."

In the middle of the book, straight after Mr Toad is sent to jail, Ratty and Mole have the most extraordinary experience.  It is late evening, and unable to sleep for worrying about a missing baby otter (Little Portly), they row upstream to search for him. They hear the most haunting music, which silences even the dawn chorus, and encounter Pan; the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. 

File:Frontispiece to The Wind in the Willows.png

'Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. 'Are you afraid?'
'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet - and yet - O Mole, I am afraid!'

I have read these kinds of encounter with - God - in several children's books - notably the Narnia series. I'm sure that it also occurs in Rudyard Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill" which I shall now have to read again.

John Buchan also writes in this manner in some of his thrillers.

Is it a sort of Stiff Upper Lip and maintaining a Proper British Reserve way of responding to an encounter with the Divine?

Anyway, I had all sorts of snips and snaps from the Bible resonating in my mind as I drove through Sussex this morning, revelling in the signs of Spring. I swear that even in the few hours between the outward and the return journeys the leaves were further advanced. 

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