“The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, made her fast, helped the still awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the luncheon-basket. The Mole begged as a favour to be allowed to unpack it all by himself; and the Rat was very pleased to indulge him, and to sprawl at full length on the grass and rest, while his excited friend shook out the tablecloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, ‘O my! O my!’ at each fresh revelation.”
Rat has never been on a picnic and is in utter ecstasy when he sets eyes on the fat, wicker luncheon-basket that contains “cold chicken…and coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscressandwidgespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater-”
This extract perfectly captures a moment from a picnic I attended last Saturday. A wedding reception picnic, in a beautiful garden on the edge of Sydney Harbour. It was a warm, breezy evening, the grass was vivid green, the bride and bridegroom glowed with happiness and the guests sat on their individual rugs and gasped “O my!” as we unpacked the contents of our wicker picnic baskets and then sat and ate a delicious feast.
The bride is my niece and it was a happy, festive day. Keith spoke at their wedding ceremony earlier from Song of Songs:
“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” 8:6-7
Watching C&L make their promises together and participate in their wedding ceremony, it was obvious that this couple was “in love” and were uttering “O My O My” as they gazed upon each other. And yet, we also sensed that they were acutely aware of the seriousness of the promises they were making and they know that this is not what is going to keep their marriage going. On their marriage outline they shared this quote:
On Christian Marriage – excerpt from CS Lewis
“What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous. It opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty.
Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.
‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run; being in love was the explosion that started it.”
Returning to Wind in the Willows, let us look at Rat in this story. For him, this is just another picnic. It is clear that it is a pleasurable ritual he undertakes regularly – he is comfortable with his picnic basket and is content to lie back and watch Mole’s fresh delight. This is the state that CS Lewis alludes to in his quote: a quieter love that is settled and comfortable. This is the engine room that will keep this marriage and indeed all marriages alive.