“The bird was there, and rose and fell as formerly, pouring out his melody; but it was not the same. Something was missing from those last sweet languishing notes. Perhaps in the interval there had been some disturbing accident in his little wild life, though I could hardly believe it since his mate was still sitting about thirty yards from the tree on the five little mottled eggs in her nest. Or perhaps his midsummer’s music had reached its highest point and was now in its declension. And perhaps the fault was in me. The virtue that draws and holds us does not hold us always nor very long; it departs from all things, and we wonder why. The loss is in ourselves, although we do not know it. Nature, the chosen mistress of our heart, does not change towards us, yet she is now, even to-day–
Less full of purple colour and hid spice,
and smiles and sparkles in vain to allure us, and when she touches us with her warm caressing touch, there is, compared with yesterday, only a faint response.” I cull this paragraph from Mr. W. H. Hudson’s enchanting book, “Birds in Town and Village,” because, or so it seems to me, it expresses in beautiful language a fact which has puzzled me all through my life, making me fear to dare in many things, lest the enthusiasm I then felt were not repeated when the time for action arrived. We are all more or less creatures of mood, some more than others, and I, alas! among the moodiest majority. All through the long, dark, chilly, miserable winter I live in town, longing sadly, though rapturously, for the summer to come again, and with its advent my own migration into rural solitudes, far away from the crowd, surrounded by Nature and lost in her embrace. Yet the end of each summer finds me with my pilgrimage not yet undertaken. Something has held me back–a friendship, business, links which were only imaginary fetters, a host of trivial unimportances masquerading in my mood of the moment as serious affairs. So the summer has come and gone, and only for an all-too-brief period have I “got away.” Nor have I particularly enjoyed my respite from the roar of omnibuses, the tramp, tramp, tramp of the crowded pavements. Somehow or other the war has robbed me of my love of solitude Somehow or other the peace and beauty and solitude of Nature still “hurt” me, as they used to hurt me during the years of the great world tragedy when, across the meadows brilliant with buttercups and daisies, there used to come the booming of the guns not so very far away “out there.” So, in order to force my mood, and perhaps deaden remembrance of its pain, I have taken along with me some human companion, only once more to realise that, when with Nature, each of us should be alone. One yearns to watch and listen, listen and watch, to lie outstretched on the hill-side, gazing lazily, yet with mind alert, at every moving thing which happens to catch one’s eye. You can rarely do this in company. So very, very few people can simply exist silently without sooner or later breaking into speech or falling fast asleep. Alone with Nature books are the only possible company–books and one’s own unspoken thoughts.