The other day, the Boy and I were talking about The Wind in the Willows, as we often do, and specifically about Wayfarers All. In this chapter of my beloved book, Ratty becomes seduced by the charms of travel and faraway adventure.
Normally, Ratty resides by the river year-round and is pretty content. The summer however is slowly winding down, Ratty can feel the seasons change and this makes him feel gloomy and restless. Initially, as he sees his friends begin to pack their belongings to prepare for travelling south to warmer climes, he tries to convince them to stay. But then he meets another Rat, someone who unlike him is a traveller, a nomad, never staying in the same place for too long, someone who has plenty of stories to share. Slowly, all the talk about strange lands, violet seas, exotic new acquaintances and unforgettable experiences begins to get to him. Ratty becomes enchanted by these descriptions of the unknown, and in comparison the familiar of his life by the river looks grey and faded.
It is only when the Mole stops his friend from taking off and begins to talk about all the activities that the changing season would bring in their little corner of the countryside, that Ratty slowly becomes himself again and abandons any thought of leaving his house by the river. This is actually one of my favourite passages in this book:
“Casually, then, and with seeming indifference, the Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering wagons and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked of the reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he became simply lyrical.”
So what The Boy and I were talking about is which one of the rats we mostly identify with. I think I am closer to Ratty. I love having a home, a permanent base. It gives me great pleasure to see how my local countryside changes and yet remains the same through the year. Little traditions that come with each season fill my heart with joy. Right now for example, I’m excited to go on the first blackberry picking of the season. Certainly, I love to travel, and I yearn for adventure, but I always want to be coming home afterwards.
I think earlier in my life I felt I didn’t need a base so much, I definitely had that “anywhere but here” feeling, and I guess it’s what brought me here. But for now, it seems to me that I prefer the quiet life. Just like Ratty and Mole, I want to be by the river, to walk in the meadows, to see the leaves change with the seasons and to experience all the little joys that they bring, right here.
I’m wondering, who do you mostly identify with? Do you often get bored and restless and need a change? Are you happier when you are settled in the familiar? Also, isn’t it amazing how a supposed children’s book can evoke such deep questions?