The Marmot with the Collar
Diary of a Philosopher

Part II - Moon of Love
Second Summer

M.02.02.01.06 / M.063 - M.02.02.04.07 / M.085

LANGUAGE

English

New Moon

new_moon

Sixth Day

M.02.02.01.06 / M.063

A stream swollen by the melting snows has kept me captive down below, on the pasturage; I dug for myself a hole of two Marmot lengths and I passed five nights there.

 

The mountain has changed during these few days. It is free from snow on the side that faces the sun. The ground is bare over wide spaces; it has all flowed down, it has all hurled itself headlong, from the rocky heights to the valley’s floor. Today some avalanches have fallen on the side in shade. Look out tomorrow, if this wind continues!

Seventh Day

M.02.02.01.07 / M.064

Here I am, a prisoner anew, but at home. The avalanche is relentless, striking to right and left of my burrow. I am not at risk, because it is following the course of the ravines; and even so, I am making myself as small as possible at the entrance to my hole. I advance a whisker’s length, just as far as is necessary to see, and when it arrives, I curl back up in my gallery. It hurls itself, furiously, from one wall to the other of its corridors; it destroys the ledges, carries off the boulders and tears up the trees from the rocks where they stand. The earth is quaking to the back of my burrow. It is when the avalanche tumbles over the precipice, below me, that it is beautiful to see. I always think I am falling and plunging with it into the void. It is a strange sensation, which gratifies your heart.

First Quarter

first_quarter

First Day

M.02.02.02.01 / M.065

This thunder is not stopping. Must they keep a store up there? The more it falls, the more there is.

 

Otherwise, my captivity is not very harsh. Some white buds are beginning to shew before my burrow, just the thing to see off the greatest hunger.

Second Day

M.02.02.02.02 / M.066

I have taken advantage of my captivity to re-read my diary. I must confess, I failed in modesty. I thought myself too certain of success. It is not enough to say: I will not sleep! One must remain awake.

Third Day

M.02.02.02.03 / M.067

I have seen my two Mountain Goats of last autumn passing by. A little one, aged at least eight days, was trotting behind them.

 

Strange race! They do not have a Moon of Love. If they meet each other, as Nature wills, this must be during the Long Night. Barely is this over, behold, they are a family. It happens sometimes even that they are already a family when we come out of our burrows.

Fourth Day

M.02.02.02.04 / M.068

The largest is fallen. I could, if I chuse my moment, cross the corridors of the avalanches; but that is no longer necessary. The shoots are emerging from the earth everywhere. There is enough to live around my burrow.

Fifth Day

M.02.02.02.05 / M.069

I yielded today to a gourmet’s wish. I have been making a luncheon of Snowbells, the first of the year. Certain slopes were pink with them. It is the finest of the little flowers of the spring. When it catches the sun, one sees in the very body of the flower, between the veins, a multitude of crystals, infinitely small, which sparkle even so. Has the table of the Gods anything more exquisite than these crystalline corollas which melt into ambrosia?

 

To browse on the Snowbell, at dawn, when its little bell, turned toward the earth, is still wet with dew: this is a pleasure that heaven, fair at least this once, has reserved for the race of Marmots alone.

Sixth Day

M.02.02.02.06 / M.070

The difference that one observes, immediately after the Long Night, between the two sides of the valley, is a remarkable thing. It is quite natural that the same quantity of snow should melt more quickly on the sunward side than on the side in shade. But how is it that on the day following the Long Night, before the sun could have got to work, it is always the sunward side that has less snow?

 

Certain things that appear completely simple, because we are used to them, are no less strange. I ask how it is that more snow falls on one side than the other. If it is the wind that carries it there, why always there and never here?

Seventh Day

M.02.02.02.07 / M.071

An idea is beginning to take shape in my mind. I think that our calumniators are wrong and that the Long Night is not one long night.

Full Moon

full_moon

First Day

M.02.02.03.01a / M.072

The more I reflect, the more I persuade myself that days and nights continue for part at least of the Long Night. It is perhaps humiliating to think that the sun rises and sets over our sleep; but if it is really so, the spirit must resign itself to the fact. Wisdom consists in seeing things as they are, and not in moulding them to our whims and fancies.

 

If the sun continues to rise and set during the Long Night, the unequal distribution of the snow when we leave our burrows is explained easily. It falls equally on the two sides; but it melts over there, in part, whereas here, in the shade, it builds up.

 

The mystery of the life of the Mountain Goat is also satisfactorily explained. A Mountain Goat has his own Moon of Love, just as we do, just as do all other animals; but we are asleep during that time.

 

If we allow this supposition, the irregularities of the sun are no more than appearance. The sun is not, cannot be irregular. All that our so-called sages have said on this subject is mere vanity. Just as the sun travels toward the north, during the succession of increasing days, to a certain determined point, which has never changed, according to Marmot memory; so too, during the succession of decreasing days, it must travel back, in an inverse sense, to a certain point that is equally fixed and invariable. If, for reasons that I do not understand, our sleep begins toward the end of the succession of decreasing days and extends long into that of increasing days, if, in addition, it varies more or less from one year to the next, the deviations of the sun are explained. It is the sun that is regular, and it is us who are not. Is it the sun’s fault that we sleep or awake sooner or later? Is it the sun’s fault if our sleep falls unequally between the two successions of days?

First Day

M.02.02.03.01b / M.073

How light one feels when one has shaken off a prejudice! I am seized by an impetuous desire to descend from my mountain and to go and instigate a debate with all the false sages down there. There must be light.

 

There is no Long Night; there is only a long sleep. How long does it last? I am still not in a position to give an exact reply to this question; but a number of indicators tend to demonstrate that it must be more than one moon, perhaps two.

 

It is, in effect, reasonable to suppose that, for a lady Mountain Goat, her time of carriage is no less considerable than a Marmot’s. It should be more, in the rule. That makes forty days already, more or less.

 

One arrives at the same result if one considers the inequalities between the succession of decreasing days and that of increasing days. To re-establish the equilibrium, at least one moon is required, without counting what is missing from those which are underway when we fall asleep and when we awake.

 

This, then, is a sleep of close to two moons, two moons during which the sun rises and sets without our opening our eyes.

 

Will I ever be able to keep the vigil for two moons?

Second Day

M.02.02.03.02 / M.074

A young couple is establishing itself a few hundred pawsteps from me, on my terrace.

 

I saw them coming yesterday and prowling around the neighbourhood. Today they are returned and have chosen a dwelling under a great boulder. They have begun to scrape the earth. I ask myself if I must emigrate.

Third Day

M.02.02.03.03 / M.075

My neighbours are working as hard as they can, taking it by turns. I know not what to resolve.

Fourth Day

M.02.02.03.04 / M.076

When I say a young couple, I must be understood. One knows how it goes with Marmots, not only with them. Each year there are widows and widowers, ordinarily more widowers. Our ladies are so prudent! There is no longer always perfect equality in numbers among the young. It must happen, then, that sometimes a young Marmot marries an old or an old a young. My neighbour must be a Marmot of a ripe age. Only a matron possesses this air of command. I wager that her great-grandchildren are many, down there, in the tribe. Her husband is a happy-go-lucky young fellow, who seems always to be standing agape, awkward, shy, distracted. My neighbour will correct him of these distractions.

Fifth Day

M.02.02.03.05 / M.077

I shewed myself boldly today. I hoped that my collar would work its effect. They did not seem to notice it.

 

It is just as I thought, an ill matched couple.

Sixth Day

M.02.02.03.06 / M.078

I presented myself this morning before the newly weds, with the intention of determining, once and for all, our future relationship. I brought them proposals for peace and good neighbourliness, based on the principle that we should take no notice of each other. What do I want with these inadequate little Marmots who lay their heads in the traps that are set by feminine guile, and, in turn, with these matrons who, instead of shedding tears for their last husband, think only of snapping up a new? What do they know of wisdom? They don’t know even the name.

 

The husband, instead of defending his better half, took flight as soon as he saw that it was indeed them for whom I was making. He would be running still if his wife had not called him back. As far as she is concerned, I must do her this justice, she is the first Marmot who has not trembled before my collar.

 

She listened without displaying the least emotion, sitting, head inclined, two front paws hanging. When I had finished speaking, she pouted a little and replied with an air of indifference:

 

“It will be as you please, sir.”

 

That said, she bowed deeply before me and rejoined her husband, who had crept up shyly.

 

This is what happened.

Seventh Day

M.02.02.03.07 / M.079

In vain does my neighbour play the disdainful Marmot, curiosity devours her. She has made her way, by a winding path, so that she has ended up browsing a few pawsteps from my burrow. She would have liked to know what he was doing, this Philosopher. Her trouble was for nothing. The Philosopher had retired within his hole… The husband followed her, at a distance.

Last Quarter

last_quarter

First Day

M.02.02.04.01 / M.080

A change is in sight. Yesterday, a scorching wind was blowing; today, it is snowing. It is always so with this hot wind. As long as it blows, it is fine; as soon as it drops, then comes the snow.

Third Day

M.02.02.04.03 / M.081

It is snowing all day and every day.

Fourth Day

M.02.02.04.04 / M.082

I am feeling cold; it is as if I were about to become numb all over again. I had to excavate a gallery through the snow to leave my burrow.

Fifth Day

M.02.02.04.05 / M.083

An idea has crossed my mind and made me thrill. If this continues, perhaps I will be able to recover the lost opportunity. They will sleep, my neighbours. What good fortune that they should have come to live at my door!

Sixth Day

M.02.02.04.06 / M.084

I am taking advantage of every moment of clear weather to spy. The husband has not gone out since yesterday morning. If he is not asleep, he must be close to it. It will not be so easy to have success in the vigil. She lies in wait and is always watching out. What does she want of me? Is she also waiting that I should fall asleep?

Seventh Day

M.02.02.04.07 / M.085

The north wind has gained the upper hand tonight. It blew with such violence and it was so cold that I shut up my gallery. When I left, there was no more snow on the edge of the precipice, before my burrow. The wind had carried it all away.

 

My neighbours have not enjoyed this good fortune. They are still snowed under. I am more and more hopeful of seeing them asleep.

E. Rambert: La marmotte au collier (1889)

trans. R. L. Hewitt: The Marmot with the Collar (2020)

The Marmot with the Collar
A Trilingual Edition

Part 02.02 (English)

Richard L. Hewitt
Kamuzu Academy, Malawi

2020