A Christmas Plea from Dr. Astrov (1897)

Out Walking the Dog wishes all readers a very merry Christmas, Chanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice and every other possible reason for celebrating Light-out-of-Darkness. We’re still posting from the coast of British Columbia, and will be returning to the wilds of New York City next week. Wherever we travel, we are deeply grateful for your interest in the world as we see it.

The forests here in British Columbia put me in mind of Chekhov’s nature-loving Dr. Astrov (Uncle Vanya, 1897):

Of course, we have to cut trees sometimes, but why whole forests?

Russian forests tremble under the axe – millions of trees are lost, animals and birds have to flee, rivers dry out, beautiful landscapes are gone forever.

And why? Because man is too lazy to pick up the fuel under his nose. … Aren’t we barbarians to burn beauty in a stove, to kill what we can’t recreate?

Our wit and vitality are given us to increase what there is. But what do we do? We destroy.

There are less forests, waters are polluted, wildlife disappears, the climate is harsher, and each day the world is poorer and uglier.

You’re looking at me sarcastically. You don’t believe a word I say. Well, perhaps I’m crazy.

But when I pass a peasant’s woods that I’ve saved from the axe, or hear leaves rustling in a tree that I’ve planted – I feel I’ve helped.

When I plant a birch, see its leaves sprout, see it sway in the wind – I’m proud, and I think …

But – time to go.

And who knows? Perhaps I’m crazy.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, December, In the City, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History, Winter

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6 Comments on “A Christmas Plea from Dr. Astrov (1897)”


  1. Lovely post. I just watched Uncle Vanya last night and those words really resonated with me. I found my way here through Pam Sterling, but I will be bak.


    • Thank you so much, Lisa. (And thanks to Pam for “introducing” us.) I just re-read Vanya, Seagull and Three Sisters. Amazingly, although I know the plays very well, both Vanya and Three Sisters read like new plays to me. How did Chekhov understand so much at such a relatively young age? And then to communicate what he understood in these living, breathing works … astonishing.

  2. Charlotte Says:

    Some theatre is good and some bad, (but let’s not go to the bad); Chekhov of course was one of the greats because his characters always shed light on the truth. This is a fine example.


  3. “A Christmas Plea” is just as relevant today as it was in 1897. But, now we seem to be running out of time and luck.

    The quote of “burning beauty in a stove” and “destroying beauty we can’t create”, says so much about who we humans have made ourselves into.

  4. p hoey Says:

    Or perhaps you’re sane, a difficult spot to be in these days, if you look at the headlines or follow the weather nation-wide or worldwide…
    Still, it’s a pleasure always to follow you into the city green places, or anywhere else you may explore, with or without the noble pooch.
    Carpe diem!


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