Thursday, March 8, 2012

Celebrate International Women's Day with Madeleine L'Engle

Yesterday, I wrote this post about the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Wrinkle in Time.  This morning, on my theology blog, I wrote this post about spirituality in children's literature, although to be honest, I don't think most children perceive the spiritual elements in the ways that adults do, especially in their reading lives.

Last night, when I got in from an extremely tough work day, I pulled other L'Engle works off the shelf.  A Wrinkle in Time has had so much press, that I wouldn't be surprised if most people didn't know that L'Engle wrote anything else.  But in fact, she wrote many other books that continued the journey of Meg Murry and the other characters that we first meet in A Wrinkle in Time, and she wrote several other series about other families.  She wrote poetry and books for grown ups.  She turned her journals into books of nonfiction. 

In short, she was amazing.  I especially value her nonfiction for reminding me that even amazing authors suffer setbacks and doubt and jealousy when others get the accolades and sometimes whole decades when nothing is accepted for publication.

If your reading time is short, explore A Circle of Quiet, the first of the Crosswicks Journal series.  It talks about her writing life and her life in an old New England farmhouse.  It talks a lot about family life.  It talks some about the New York theatre scene.  It dips in and out of spiritual issues.  It's an overview of other terrains she would explore in more depth.

I loved the last book in the Crosswicks Journal series, Two-Part Invention, an exploration of marriage and then end of marriage, as her husband dies from cancer.  Likewise, The Summer of the Great-grandmother explores our elders, what we owe them and the gifts they give us and issues surrounding their care.

I must confess that Walking on Water:  Reflections on Faith and Art is one of my all-time favorites.  Almost every page is underlined.  It's a book full of insights that made me gasp.

Last night, I reread chunks of A Circle of Quiet.  I loved its message that family love will carry us through the tough times, that art is worth it, that it will all be OK.  I love it because it holds up well, even though it was published in 1972.  It's the kind of book that a reader can dip in and out of.  Ah . . .

Here are some L'Engle quotes to whet your appetite.  What better way to celebrate International Women's Day than by rereading L'Engle.  Her fictional heroines are spunky, but the people she depicts from real life, most importantly, her self portrait, show that spunkiness is not limited to fictional realms.

“God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too.”  (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, page 19)

"We tend, today, to want to have a road map of exactly where we are going.  We want to know whether or not we have succeeded in everything we do. It's all right to want to know--we wouldn't be human if we didn't--but we also have to understand at a lot of the time we aren't going to know." (A Circle of Quiet, page 187)

"I am grateful that I started writing at a very early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do, to set down words on paper, to attempt to tell a story, create characters.  We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love" (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, page 67).

"I do not have to make the repulsive theological error of feeling that I have to see cancer as God's will for my husband.  I do not want anything to do with that kind of God.  Cancer is not God's will.  The death of a child is not God's will.  . . . I would rather have no God at all than that kind of punitive God.  Tragedies are consequences of human actions, and the only God worth believing in does not cause the tragedies but lovingly comes into the anguish with us."  (Two-Part Invention, page 172)

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