“Rocky, you see, lived down on Long Island somewhere, miles away from New York; and not only that, but he had told me himself more than once that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one. Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when he did anything; but most of his time, as far as I could make out, he spent in a sort of trance. He told me once that he could sit on a fence, watching a worm and wondering what on earth it was up to, for hours at a stretch.” (P.G. Wodehouse, “The Aunt and the Sluggard”, My Man Jeeves, 1919)
I haven’t watched a worm for an hour. But I have spent an entire afternoon laying on my back on a wide flat stone, staring up into the wind-stirred canopy of a vast white oak (Quercus alba). I've spent equally joyous afternoons robotically potting up hundreds of fragrant lavender, standing at the potting table eclipsed in a cloud of their resinous aroma. recariously Jumping over roadside ditches in attempts to grab photos of roadside larkspur (how else do I get these photos?). Or immersed in the wonderland of a Wodehouse story.
For me as a teenager, nothing could thrill me like the complete overflowing promise of joy brimming from Wodehouse’s stories. They offered endless sunny afternoons full of hilarious adventure. I especially loved his “creative class” characters. Rocky Todd the Long Island Poet who could watch a worm for hours. James Rodman who resists romance and writes mystery thrillers in Honeysuckle Cottage. Joan Valentine, the Home Gossip magazine editor who competes with her neighbor to steal a rare scarab from a country house. Lucius Pim, the arrogant and misogynist painter who gets run over by his girlfriend in a red two-seater automobile.
Of course, some of the stories seem dated now - and ignore the issues of race, class, and modern sexuality that we expect from serious literature. But a part of me still wants to be one of Wodehouse’s characters. An eccentric artist or writer, wearing comfy clothes, living in a tiny cottage out in the woods, bumbling around with like-minded friends. Sitting on the porch, watching the cars go by, smelling the honeysuckle. Sign me up.