After reading some of the heated comments here this morning, I figured it was as good a time as any to mark the beginning of spring with a brief walk along the C&O Canal. Among other things I saw a redheaded woodpecker like this one doing its thing high up in a tree.
It was nice to pause, watch, and listen to the bird banging away and the wood chips falling to the ground.
As I wrote last spring after a similar walk, I’m not very good at rhapsodizing about nature but– as I often do– I recalled what George Orwell wrote in the spring of 1946:
I have always suspected that if our economic and political problems are ever really solved, life will become simpler instead of more complex, and that the sort of pleasure one gets from finding the first primrose will loom larger than the sort of pleasure one gets from eating an ice to the tune of a Wurlitzer. I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and– to return to my first instance– toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.
At any rate, spring is here, even in London N.1, and they can’t stop you enjoying it. This is a satisfying reflection. How many a time have I stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who would stop me enjoying this if they could. But luckily they can’t. So long as you are not actually ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or a holiday camp, spring is still spring. The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.
Update: Here’s the complete text of Orwell’s essay, “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad.”