Pooh and I did not cross paths until I was 22. A chance meeting at the library was not written by A.A.Milne but Benjamin Hoff’s eye opening The Tao of Pooh. The book drew from Pooh and company’s adventures to make a point. This gem for instance:
“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
Straightaway I knew that Pooh was a Zen master who was to be revered and adored.
Now Pooh and I crossed paths again, this time face to face with The House At Pooh Corner. I read it in it’s paperback version with coloured illustrations by E.H.Shepard whose drawings of Tigger, Pooh, Piglet,Owl, Kanga, Roo, Eyeore,Rabbit and Christopher Robin are miniature masterpieces. The form and shape are natural. The shading and settings look very real. This is in contrast with the very full, smooth, smiley and strangely dressed only in a top (Why not shorts too?) drawings of Pooh one finds in the franchise version. Shepard based his drawings on the A.A.Milne’s son Christopher Robin and his toys.
The House at Pooh Corner, like all classics can be read by all age groups. Milne based his stories in the 100 Acres, drawn entirely from his many walks into the Ashdown forest in Sussex. Winnie the Pooh derived his name from a Canadian black bear Winnie in the London zoo.
Each of the characters in The House At Pooh Corner are a study in human nature. Rabbit who prides his brain and is always busy doing this and that without a moments rest. Shy, nervous piglet who ever so often despite his anxiousness does brave, brave things. Owl who spells his name as WOL and can be found thinking at all times. Eyeore over who hangs a dark cloud and wants to be taken seriously. Kanga, the doting mother and Roo her active adventurous child. Tigger the tiger who cannot sit still. Pooh the all knowing who thinks mostly about honey and songs that hum their way into his head. Christopher Robin who walks in two worlds and loves Pooh.
Rabbit’s Busy Day is one of the ten stories in the book. We are introduced to Rabbit’s nature in the opening lines:
It was going to be one of Rabbit’s busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or Seeing What everyone Else Thought About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh, and saying, ‘Very well, then, I’ll tell Piglet,’ and then going to Piglet,and saying, ‘Pooh thinks-but perhaps I’d better see Owl first.’ It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, ‘Yes, Rabbit’ and ‘No,Rabbit’, and waited until he had told them.
How many of us know people like this. Officious and busy, telling the rest of us “You slackers!”.
Rabbit hurries to Christophers house where he sees the note:
Naturally rabbit gets all in a tizzy and rushes to meet Owl to fully understand the notice. What follows is an interesting conversation between the busy Rabbit who seeks instant answers and pensive owl who presfers to talk to a minimum.
‘Well?’ said Rabbit.
‘Yes,’ said Owl, looking Wise and Thoughtful. ‘I see what you mean. Undoubtedly’.
‘Exactly’, said Owl. ‘Precisely.’ And he added, after a little thought, ‘If you had not come to me, I should have come to you.’
‘For that very reason’, said Owl, hoping that something helpful would happen soon.
‘Yesterday morning’, said Rabbit solemnly, ‘I went to see Christopher Robin. He was out. Pinned on his door was a notice!’
On the question of BAKSON, owl and rabbit wonder if it is the spotted or herbaceous, not unlike two biologists trying to identify the species of animal.
In the meantime Piglet and Eyeore have a talk about education and learning, as Eyeore points out to Piglet that the three sticks arranged such are more than three sticks, but an A. The Eyeore says may look like three sticks to some, but to the educated it is a great and glorious A. This would not include the Piglets and Poohs of the world. Eyeore’s bubble is burst when Rabbit rushes in and identifies the A, informing Eyeore that it is not a very good one.
Rabbit’s encounter with Pooh is quite something else. He catches Pooh singing his self-made song.
Oh, the butterflies are flying,
Now the winter days are dying,
And the primroses are trying
To be seen.
And the turtle-doves are cooing,
And the woods are up and doing,
For the violets are blue-ing
In the green.
Rabbit’s frenzied questioning results in nought, with Pooh remembering the day as it was spent and not being particularly worried about where Christopher Robin was and who Backson is.
BACKSON it turns out, is Back Soon. The herbaceous backson enters the word landscape of The Hundred Acre Wood by then.
Each of the stories seem more like a walk in a wooded path, where the reader is let in, to gaze and listen to the going-ons at the Hundred Acre Wood. There are no major twists or turns except for Rabbit who sees it that way.
Calamities, like Owls house being destroyed or finding something for Tigger to eat are all sorted slowly, yet surely.
The author creates a space of ‘just is’ with no pressing engagements or stories that must have a plot with a beginning, middle and end.
Instead he engages us, enchants us and assures us:
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
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