Monday, July 24, 2023

Summer Read Along - The Wind In The Willows
- Chapters 3 & 4

Good morning , my friends! If you're joining along with me in a summer reading of The Wind and the Willows, then pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, and let's join Ratty and Mole on their latest adventure, shall we?


"He had patiently hunted through the wood for an hour or more when at last to his joy he heard a little answering cry. Guiding himself by the sound, he made his way through the gathering darkness to the foot of an old beech tree with a hole in it, and from out of the hole came a feeble voice saying, "Ratty, is that really you?" 

The Rat krept into the hollow and there he found Mole, exhausted and still trembling, "Oh, Rat!" he cried, "I've been so frightened, you can't imagine."

"Oh I quite understand, said the Rat, soothingly. "You shouldn't really have gone and done it, Mole. I did my best to keep you from it."

"The Mole was greatly cheered by the sound of the Rat's careless laughter, as well as by the sight of his stick and his gleaming pistols, and he stopped shivering and began to feel bolder and more himself again."

I don't recall many times in my life when I've been lost, though I am prone to be easily distracted by beauty, any time that I am in nature I make it a point not to wonder too far behind. 

The picture you see above right is of  The Appalachian Trail, and as I mentioned in my last post, it is less than ten minutes from our front door.  Because of that we find ourselves there, often, especially this summer it seems. My husband and I  did a three day section hike  a few years ago, and after a short drive through the mountains yesterday, we've decided to do another very soon. Hiking and nature may not be for everyone, but for me, well to be honest, it is hard to describe. I feel called to it, in a way. It is so much more than dirt and rocks and trees for me, it is holy, "a thin place", if you will, where it feels at times as though I could just stretch out my hand and touch heaven. That being said, it is also not a place where I would want to be lost or even alone.

If you look closely at the picture you'll see a white stripe painted on the tree, which is known as a "blaze". These identifying markers are placed all along the trail, usually on trees and but often even rocks, to guide the 3,000 people who set out to traverse the entire trail, from Georgia to Maine (or the reverse), each year. And though I've only section hiked it thus far, the thought of hiking the entire trail is appealing to me. Many women do it alone every year, but like Mole, I am "cheered by the sound of careless laughter". I'd much prefer it, if friends were near by.

One of my readers who is participating in the read along commented last week that one of the things that she appreciated was Rat's graciousness toward Mole, and this is evidenced in this chapter as well. Even after warning Mole of the dangers of going out alone to The Wild Woods, Mole sets out in spite of it. But when Rat discovers he has gone, he doesn't think twice about setting out himself to find him, and is so patient with him when he finally does. I think there is a lesson in that for all of us. I know there is for me.


"The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a fire of logs, between two attractive chimney-corners tucked away in the wall, well out of any suspicion of draught.  A couple of high-backed settles, facing each other on either side of the fire, gave further sitting accommodation for the sociably disposed.  In the middle of the room stood a long table of plain boards placed on trestles, with benches down each side.  At one end of it, where an armchair stood pushed back, were spread the remains of the Badger’s plain but ample supper.  Rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overhead hung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs.  It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment.  The ruddy brick floor smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight flickered and played over everything without distinction."

I love this passage describing Badger's house, and I can easily picture myself sitting in one of the high backed chairs, warming by the fire. I appreciate it so much when an author takes the time to share all the fine details of a setting.

This depiction in many ways reminds me of my paternal grandmother's house. Though there was no fireplace, there was a gas furnace in the main room and a cast iron stove in the kitchen that kept her home comfortably warm in the winter. And while there were no high back chairs (she never owned anything that nice), there was a soft, comfortable couch that was my favorite place to cozy up and read a good book. It was always covered with several layers of soft blankets, which I realize now were most likely placed there to hide the well worn upholstery. Everything in her house was old, including the house itself, but somehow there was still a warmth and coziness about it that as a child, at least, caused me to overlook the tell-tell signs of age and wear. One thing was for sure, though, my grandmother was an excellent cook and she knew, like Badger, how to serve up "a plain but ample supper" that would feed you for days. 

There have been many depictions in the books I've read throughout and my childhood and as an adult that instantly take me back to that old farmhouse in that small Texas town. It was torn down just a few years after my grandmother died to make way for an expanding church in the area. The land where it stood is a parking lot now, which makes me a little sad. But at the very back of the lot is a small strip of grass and a few trees that I remember once stood close to the back of their yard, and every time I visit, I take off my shoes and let my feet touch that ground again. Much like the AT, I suppose, its a thin place where all of my yesterdays somehow meld with the present. In that moment, I'd almost believe I could here her calling me in for supper, and oh what a simple but glorious feast it would be!

So there you have it, my friends, my favorite quotes and passages from the next two chapters. I can't wait to move on to the next and see what kind of mischief Mole might get himself into this week! Leave your thoughts in the comments, and I'll see you here again next Monday to discuss Chapters 5 and 6! But before I go, here are a few links you might find interesting.

I didn't know much about Grahame before reading this, and I found it very interesting.

If you have littles in your life, or you might enjoy some of the resources here. It looks as though it requires a membership, but it appears to be free.

Classic Children's Book Quiz
Though somewhat unrelated to our reading, I thought this was fun. I scored 7 out of 11. Shame on me, I should have done better!


Anonymous said...

I took the quiz at the bottom of your post and got 10/11 correct, surprisingly; I missed the last question.

One thing that struck me this week was that for me, reading this as an adult is the perfect timing. I would have missed SO much if I'd read this masterpiece as a child. I just wouldn't have appreciated it as I do now.

Chapter 3~ Early in the chapter, Rat says, "Badger hates Society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing." And sheepishly, I admit to that being me. And again I was struck by Rat's graciousness to Mole, as you commented on. Perhaps this is a theme we'll see throughout the book?

Chapter 4~ I made note of the exact same description of the kitchen that you quoted. (I won't take the time to re-type it.) And like you, I thought that I would LOVE to be in a chair, settled by the fire in THAT kitchen! I also loved how Badger opened his home as a place of refuge for those needing a place to stay, and in the morning, he left his lodgers on their own, while he was "busy" in his study. And that it was ok! When we have houseguests, I always feel the need to be "on" which is exhausting, so this really spoke to me. And again, more lessons.


Kimberly Lottman said...

Pam - I did read this as a child and I know that I am observing so much more this time around! Probably because I am much older now and thus have experienced so many of the things that take place in the story, so visualizing the scenes comes much easier for me.

I too related to Badger not being social.:) But I missed that it was perfectly acceptable and ok for him to retire to his study, even with house guests, and no one seemed offended or annoyed. I would appreciate a little of that consideration from my own family sometimes! LOL!

Thanks so much for joining in the fun!

I’m thinking of doing this again in January and reading the sequel, The Willows in Winter.:)

Kimberly Lottman said...

Pam- and congratulations on your high score! I owned a children’s book store once and worked for Barnes & Noble for years! I should have scored much higher! :)

Anonymous said...

That is SO cool that you owned a children's book store!

I'll join in the fun again with the sequel. Which, incidentally, I never even knew there was a sequel!