Monday, September 10, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle is no longer with us

Returning from vacation to get my fix from the Endicott blog, I have just read the saddest news: of Madeleine L'Engle's death, at age 88. I cannot possibly write an obituary or memorial here that would do justice to our loss. Endicott has written the best memorial there will probably be. But now I find myself picking up my tattered old copy of A Wind in the Door with sadness, such sadness, and my insides are a winter day. Madeleine L'Engle was one of the great ones, and had the deepest heart and spirit - it shows in all of her work. She lived life kindly and fully, and knew, like the characters in Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, how to make the clock strike the right time:

Kairos. Real time. God's time. That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we are constantly checking our watches for chronological time. The saint in contemplation, lost (discovered) to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings, co-creators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.

And she understood fairy tales better than anyone:

I am a writer. When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten.

She was the first great storyteller I met as a child, and she has been the one to whom I've returned many times as an adult to remind myself to listen to the heart's own music. Losing her is like losing a grandmother. I believe she is in a beautiful place, but she is not here, telling stories.

When I was thirteen, I started writing a letter in my horrible penmanship to tell her how much her books meant. I never finished or sent the letter.

Mourn with me. And celebrate her many books - novels, poems, plays, faith journals (such as Walking on Water, which is the source of the passages I've quoted) - which have taught so many young readers so many things about love, death, loss, faith, art, and hope. Long may her stories live in our memories.

No comments: