just this afternoon, as i was reading a manuscript for my friend, kate mclennan, i thought of madeleine l'engle. kate wrote a sentence about all of humankind being descended from stardust. i touched the scabby, healing new star on my neck, and remembered madeleine's star stories.
and then came the news: she died yesterday. age 88. natural causes. she passed at home.
and now i'm sitting at my messy dinner table with tears and a runny nose. i use the bananie.com search engine with the following keyword: madeleine.
here are excerpts from blog entries i've written about madeleine's stars:
"in her genesis trilogy, madeleine l'engle breaks down the meaning of disaster: dis-aster--to be separated from the stars. to me, stars are God's constancy. this is my Gospel. so much so that two blue stars are forever inked into my shoulders."
"i am reminded of madeleine l'engle's philosophy of stars she talks about in her genesis trilogy: the stars we see tonight may have burned out a million years ago, but their light just now reaches us. we're watching the past like present and we cannot tell the difference."
i must leave for dinner with friends in a moment, and am not prepared to be writing about the death of this woman i called muse and sister. my heart aches as if i've lost a member of my family. and so, instead of my words, here are hers, written to me nearly eight years ago.
later that night.
charleydog is asleep at my feet, as i write by the light of my computer. the whole house is soundly sleeping but me. my heart keeps tugging me back to the passing of madeleine l'engle.
tonight, we had dinner with friends, one of whom was jane. jane is a poet, and has recently taken it upon herself to help me get past my writers block, to tell my stories, to do what my heart aches to do.
tonight, she once again reminded me of how i need to be writing, and her timing was apt. apt because i owe so much of my desire to write at all to ms l'engle.
you see, i was 19 when i discovered her books as an adult, walking on water specifically. i lived in ohio then, in the damp basement of my sister's house, and i was a broken girl. my father had just died. my grandmother was dying. i hated ohio. i was secretly in love with a female friend of mine, but was desperately afraid of consequences.
i'd recently returned from the nashville wedding of a singer and new friend named sarah masen. i'd met many of her friends, and all of them were talking about this walking on water book. their eyes were bright and their inspiration was big. their words--madeleine l'engle's words--made me feel alive.
and so i read walking on water for myself. her stories about creation, kronos and kairos time, icons, inspiration and hard work all woke me up to the singular desire to write. it was as simple as that. madeleine l'engle believed in knowing God though the creative act, and i was desperate to know God.
on the last day of the millennium, i wrote this in my journal:
"I wrote a letter to madeleine lâ€™engle tonight. I have felt sooooo compelled to do it; I didnâ€™t know what to say, but I had to. I owe so much to her, and I wanted her to know it from my mouth. I donâ€™t know how long sheâ€™ll be on this earth. the time was now to write."
she wrote me back the letter i photographed above. i have carried it with me everywhere i have ever lived since, in a frame set by julie lee.
i told madeleine l'engle that i longed to write life alive, to which she replied that mercy and reconciliation can come to us through story.
and then she told me to be brave.
i never understood her words until now, as i wonder if i have the bravery to attempt to really write again. do i believe that mercy and reconciliation can come to us--to me--through story?
i have always believed the wonder-words of madeleine l'engle. now that she is gone, i feel a little lost. i know that she is alive in her many books, but the hand that wrote the lifechanging letter is stilled. the world feels redeemable while visionaries like her walk it. now that she has passed, who will be our teacher? our inspiration? the one who wakes us up to divinity under our noses?
i long to carry on her vision of gorgeous wonder in a broken world, of hope for a broken girl. i want to cultivate my own work and remain brave in it.
goodnight, madeleine. you made me believe i could create something real.
you offered a 19 year old girl a sense of meaning.
i hope there is a crosswicks in heaven.