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):
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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.