Beautiful Description from a Horrifying Book

On the White Sea, where the nights are white for half a year at a time, Bolshoi Solovetsky Island lifts its white churches from the water within the ring of its bouldered kremlin walls, rusty-red from the lichens which have struck root there — and the grayish-white Solovetsky seagulls hover continuously over the kremlin and screech.

“In all this brightness it is as if there were so sin present … It is as if nature here had not yet matured to the point of sin” is how the writer Prishvin perceived the Solovetsky Islands.

Without us these isles rose from the sea; without us they acquired a couple of hundred lakes replete with fish; without our help they were settled by capercaillies, hares, and deer, while foxes, wolves, and other beasts of prey never ever appeared there.

The glaciers came and went, the granite boulders littered the shores of the lakes; the lakes froze during the Solovetsky winter nights, the sea howled under the wind and was covered with an icy sludge and in places froze; the northern lights blazed across half the sky; and it grew bright once again and warm once again, and the fir trees grew and thickened, and the birds cackled and called, and the young deer trumpeted — and the planet circled through all world history, and kingdoms fell and rose, and here there were still no beasts of prey and no human being.

Half a hundred years after the Battle of Kulikovo Field and half a thousand years before the GPU, the monks Savvaty and German crossed the mother-of-pearl sea in a tiny boat and came to look on this island without a beast of prey as sacred. The Solovetsky Monastery began with them …

The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, abridged version, pp. 181 – 182

A Confused Bird

The sign clearly says that “Into the Wild” is to the right. Yet he is facing left.

He got in to our house through the woodstove pipe, possibly under the mistaken impression that it would be a good place to nest. He bumped around inside the pipe for about 24 hours. Then, when I was sure he had died, my son opened the stove and out he came! He was so shocked by his experiences that I was able to pick him up in my hand and let him outside.

Misanthropic Morse II: Not a Medical Doctor

“You’re not a ‘medical’ doctor, sir?” asked Morse [of the suspect].

“No. I just wrote a Ph.D. thesis –you know how these things are.”

“On?”

“Promise not to laugh?”

“Try me.”

“‘The comparative body-weight of the great tit within the variable habitats of its North European distribution.'”

Morse didn’t laugh.

Original research, was that?”

“No other kind, as far as I know.”

“And you were examined in this?”

“You don’t get a doctorate otherwise.”

“But the person who examined you — well, he couldn’t know as much as you, could he? By definition, surely?”

She, actually. It’s the — well, they say it is — the way you go about it — your research.”

Colin Dexter, The Way Through the Woods: An Inspector Morse Mystery, 1992, pp. 173 – 174

GKC Quote on Cave People

To-day all our novels and newspapers will be found swarming with allusions to a popular character called a Cave-Man. So far as I can understand, his chief occupation in life was knocking his wife about …

In fact, people have been interested in everything about the cave-man except what he did in the cave. Now there does happen to be some real evidence of what he did in the cave. What was found in the cave was not the horrible, gory club notched with the number of women it had knocked on the head. [It was] drawings or paintings of animals; and they were drawn or painted not only by a man but by an artist. They showed the experimental and adventurous spirit of the artist, the spirit that does not avoid but attempts difficult things; as where the draughtsman had represented the action of the stag when he swings his head clean round and noses towards his tail. In this and twenty other details it is clear that the artist had watched animals with a certain interest and presumably a certain pleasure. [I]t would seem that he was not only an artist but a naturalist.

When novelists and educationists and psychologists of all sorts talk about the cave-man, they never conceive him in connection with anything that is really in the cave. When the realist of the sex novel writes, ‘Red sparks danced in Dagmar Doubledick’s brain; he felt the spirit of the cave-man rising within him,’ the novelist’s readers would be very much disappointed if Dagmar only went off and drew large pictures of cows on the drawing-room wall.

G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (orig. ed. published 1925), pp. 27 – 30

Heart-Warming Link About A Toad

The Wyoming Toad lives only in Wyoming. It was once thought to be extinct in the wild, but now it is coming back, thanks to a large number of people who have been working on it for ten years. This team includes the City of Laramie, private landowners, Fish and Game, University of Wyoming, and several zoos and wildlife organizations.

I find it heartwarming that large numbers of people, who are clearly superior in every way to toads, would devote so much time and effort to save this ordinary-looking toad. Some of them have donated land. Others have invested their entire careers in this little animal. Clearly, they love the toad just because it exists, not because it does anything special for them.