Monday, July 31, 2023

Summer Read Along: The Wind In The Willows
Chapter 5 & 6



I do believe this may have been one of my favorite chapters yet.  So many passages filled with such charming descriptions! It was impossible to choose just one.

"The rapid night-fall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low-latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers in from outside, the inmates, gathered 'round the tea table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughing or gesture, had each that happy grace, which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture - the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators so far from home themselves had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock off his pipe on the end of smouldering log."

When I was growing up in the suberbs of Fort Worth, Texas, there was a neighborhood not far from our house that went all out with their outdoor Christmas decorations.  One street was all candy canes, and it was called Candy Cane Lane. One street decorated their mailboxes, another had silver bells, another angels. Every year our little family would load up in the car and go for a drive to see the lights. Those annual treks to are among my favorite memories from my childhood. But aside from the lights, one of the things I always enjoyed was looking in on the people who lived in the houses we passed. We were in the car, of course, but many of the houses had large front windows that allowed you to see inside. I recall one year one of the families was having a big party and you could hear the music and see all their guests mingling together and having fun, I remember wishing we were friends and had been invited.

To this day, I still enjoy taking a little peek into the lives of others as I drive down the road. I don't gawk or slow down, I just notice in passing and sometimes you'll see that someone is watching television in an upstair bedroom, or making dinner in the kitchen. I wonder at the lives they live there, if they are happy, and often I'll even pray for them. It's been kind of a fascination of mine since childhood and the passage above reminded me of it. What about you? Am I alone in this, or do you enjoy catching glimpses of people in their homes?

"Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long absent travelers from far oversea."

Isn't this how it always feels to return home? I love traveling, and I much prefer the going than the coming back, which for whatever reason always seems to take twice as long? But it is always a relief when you know you are only an hour or half hour away, "the home stretch"! This passage describes my sentiments in those moments exactly.

And because I don't want to write out the entire chapter, I'll try to limit myself to just a few more of my favorite lines.

"Mole's face beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him, and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp and took one glance around his old home."

Of course, we do learn that he found it all covered in a thick layer of dust, and looking rather shabby for which he immediately began to apologize. But Rat quickly rebutled with complete enthusiasm (I don't know that I've ever been more convicted and inspired by a rat!);

"What a capital little house this is!" he called out cheerily. "So compact, so well planned. Everything here and everything in its place. We'll make a jolly night of it!"

Rat is quiet the optimist, is he not?

I also absolutely loved the idea of sleeping bunks built into the wall! Years ago when our girls were little, we rented a cabin in West Virginia that had this very set up. Two small bunks, built into a log wall in a tiny back room. I remember to this day how their eyes lit up and how excited they were at the prospect of sleeping in such a cozy nook! I was, admittedly, jealous that I couldn't join in the fun myself!

After a quick assessment of the place, Mole realized that he had nothing to offer Rat in the way of a meal and began again to apologize for the lack. And once again Rat, with his optimism, quickly retrieved what he could find and spread out a small feast.

"That's a banquet for you!" observed the Rat, "I know some animals who would give their ears to be sitting down to supper with us tonight"

To which Mole groaned, "No bread, . . . no butter."

These two! Who would have known how much was to be learned about optimism and pessimism in such a lovely little story? I know it's inspired me to rethink my perspective on things, for Rat does always seem to find the best in people and in every situation. 

And then the lovely depiction of the tiny field mice who arrived with merry caroling at the door, in their "red worsted comforters"! Grahame spares no detail! And once again, as Mole anguished over how to feed them, Rat immediately came up with a plan and set everything to right.

And a final passage from this chapter;

"The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes, he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back without rancour. He was now in the just the frame of mind which the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how plain and simple, how narrow, even it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in ones existence."

As a child I only lived in one house. It was the house my parents brought me home to when I was born, and I vividly remember laying in my bedroom the night before I was to be married and realizing that for the first time in my life, it would no longer be my home. Though circumstances brought me back more than once in my adult life, it was never quite the same. Growing up it seemed that I belonged to it and it belonged to me, but once I married there were other houses, and in that a few that felt like home. The little house just across the railroad tracks where we raised our children, was the first house that, as an adult,  gave me that same sense of belonging. And then last summer we bought the house we live in now, which feels more like home with every passing day. I think it takes time, and living in a place long enough to create memories to really feel attached to it, and I'm sure that will be the case.

The passage goes on to explain that Mole knew he would leave with Rat and return to the home they'd made together on the river. But it comforted him to know that his home was always there waiting. We sold my childhood home about six months after my mother passed away, and the house we raised the girls in has now been rented to another family. So while neither of them are places I can actually return to, the happy memories we shared there are many, and they alone are "an achorage in my existance" Such a lovely, lovely phrase!

And with that, I think I'll close for today. I realize I only shared my thoughts on Chapter 5, but as I said when I first began this post, there were so many passages in this chapter that I loved! I honestly believe I could have just rewritten it all, word for word. I've said this in previous posts, that I love it when a writer provides you with a detailed description of the setting of the story, and Grahame excels in this! He paints such lovely scenes that it is difficult for me not to share them all! That being said, this post is already quite long, so that is why I've decided to divide it up.

If you're joining me, please share your thoughts and favorite passages from Chapter 5 in the comments, and in the next few days I'll write a separate post and share my thoughts on Chapter 6.

Before I go, I came across this fun little quiz;

Which Character From The Wind In the Willows Are You?

I got Badger, which I was pretty pleased with! If you take it, be sure to share your results in the comments. 


It doesn't seem possible that my absolute favorite chapter of the book could be followed by my least favorite chapter, but such is the case. I don't even have a favorite passage to share I disliked it so much.

The only thing I did like about it was the way that Badger, Ratty and Mole did their best to try to persuade their friend to refrain from further antics.  They seem to sacrifice a lot for Toad, in this instance leaving the comforts of their own homes to sit round the clock with him to insure that he did not get into more trouble, which of course, he did.

I do hope Toad grows on me or does change his ways, because right now he is very much the priveledged, spoiled brat. I'm sure Grahame has a reason for including him, but he seems so out of sync with the other characters in the story. Alas, I suppose every good story needs a villian, but still holding out hope that this one will see the error of his ways and stop troubling his friends.

Perhaps you had a more optimistic outlook on the chapter, and if so, please encourage me by leaving your thoughts in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I loved Chapter 5 as well!

Your long quote is EXACTLY what struck me most in this chapter. I, too, love catching glimpses of "life" through lit windows in the evening while driving or walking by. It always looks so cozy to me~ life through glowing windows. In fact, when our neighbors who live across the river from us return from Raleigh, I ways tell her I miss their glowing windows while they're gone! I know exactly what you're saying about not stalking folks or spying, but just glimpses of evening coziness. A funny incident occurred a while back when our older kids were young and still needed a babysitter. I was driving the sitter home one evening, and after dropping her off, was glancing in a window where the room was painted red and had beautiful bookshelves filled with books. It was lovely. And, while gazing at the loveliness, I ran into their mailbox and knocked it off the post. A very sheepish me had to stop the car, pick up the mailbox and knock on their door to make restitution. I haven't hit any more mailboxes, and I still love those evening peeks! This scene in Wind in the Willows reminded me of this quote from Thomas Kincaid (who was known as "the painter of light"), copied in my commonplace book: "A home with warmly lit windows is a resting place for the heart. It's a dream worth holding on to, a peaceful vision for our friends, our families, ourselves. When we come home to the things that matter most, the windows of our very lives will be with the irresistible glow of the place that says welcome."

I also loved the quotes you had of Mole's return home: I had most earmarked as well. How Mole felt that his home looked rather shabby upon his return, and Rat pointed out all the positives, and soon had Mole feeling better about things. Not only is Rat so optimistic, he has that ability to dive in and get things done. He's not just a dreamer, he's a doer! He had such a beautiful dinner set for the caroling field mice in no time. SUCH lessons to learn. I'll end with this quote from their dinner as they were visiting around the table, "The Rat said little or nothing, only taking care that each guest had what he wanted and plenty of it, and that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything." Always thinking of others. I love him for that.

I have to agree with you, this has been the best chapter yet.

I'm going to try again to take the quiz. For some reason when I clicked the link, I was brought to the correct page, but couldn't find where to click to actually start the quiz. If I'm able to do it, I'll report back.


Anonymous said...

Silly me! I figured it out.

I'm Ratty. I thought I'd end up being Badger since he "hates Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing!"


Kimberly Lottman said...

Pam, Thank you for sharing that beautiful quote from Thomas Kinkade! When we lived in Texas there was a Thomas Kinkade museum in downtown Fort Worth. It was always so fun to visit! I wasn’t surpised at all that I was Badger, for the same reasons you mentioned! But Ratty has so many admirable qualities!
As you mentioned, he’s not only a dreamer but a doer!
Such a lovely chapter! Thanks for sharing it with me!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to say that I do not have a more optimistic view. :(

I hate to sound like a broken recored, but your first paragraph, encapsulated my thoughts exactly. I thought the same as you~ how could we go from the BEST chapter to this? The only positive I saw was the importance of having REAL friends, Like Badger, Ratty and Mole, who are willing to do the hard for their friend's best interest, and to speak the truth in love.

I could find no quotes that spoke to me either!


Kimberly Lottman said...

The first line of your response! I literally laughed out loud! :) Glad to know I am not the only one!