Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The Estate of Peasants

Donald Culross Peattie, An Almanac for Moderns (Nov. 12):
In Normandy or Piedmont or the Schwarzwald, such a forest tract as the one that stretches all the way from the village past my house, and many miles down to the river, would never be permitted to lie so unprofitably idle. At this season of the year, when the forest floor is littered with thousands of twigs and branches and fallen nuts, this wood would be full of industrious children, collecting the branches into faggots, the nuts in sacks.

But I am eyed askance here when I go out with my children to gather patiently the twigs and break up fallen boughs. This appears as cheese-paring upon my part, a menial evidence that I have somehow acquired in my European years a low and foreign standard of living, reducing my children to the estate of peasants.

Now I know of no one who has all things better ordered for a truly high standard of living than a good peasant, who knows how to find the greatest possible satisfaction in an acre of black earth, a barrel of wine, an armful of wife, a big horse and a fine ripe wood lot. To all he gives back the gift of being needed, used, garnered and brought to appointed fruition.

But all about me I am presented with a people, blood of my blood and dear to me, who have no capacity to to enjoy that which they have. In place of the forest turned to account without injury, I have the spectacle of my neighbors who burn off the woods every year from sheer incompetence to enjoy their blessings, from an innate hostility to Nature.
Narcisse Díaz de la Peña, Gathering Wood Under the Trees

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