Saturday, September 08, 2007

For Madeleine, May All Her Seasons Be Blessed

How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
That every life is noted and is cherished,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

(~ from A Ring of Endless Light)

Madeleine L'Engle Camp Franklin died on Thursday, September 6. This coming November 29, she would have been 89 years old.

I've been trying since last evening to come here and post something...something to adequately convey how much I loved Madeleine L'Engle and her writing, and what her books have meant to me for the past 28 years. Instead, I spent a while last night crying, then pulling some of my favorite books from my L'Engle shelves, reading, smiling, laughing, and finally crying a little more.

Lest anyone think it strange that I was grieving the death of someone I'd never actually met, know that I felt as though I'd known her, and known her well, since I was eleven. Her writing, both fiction and non-fiction, carried with it a very authentic and intimate voice. Over the years, I also wrote her a handful of times, and she was always so gracious to respond. Two personal notes I remember in particular came at very different seasons in my life: one a note encouraging the writing aspirations of an enthusiastic and eager sixteen year old, one a note wishing blessings on me and my new husband (I sent her a wedding invitation because when it came down to thinking about important members of my life community, she was on the list).

Her writing has shaped me and helped me in so many ways. She helped me think about life in terms of seasons; she helped me learn to order my time and count it as precious. She taught me the importance of names and naming, and what a precious gift it is to be given the gift of someone's name. She taught me to hope and believe that marriage, even or especially in its difficult times, could still grow and flourish. She reminded me to be honest in my prayers. Time and again, she returned my focus to God's amazing love for his beloved creation, and especially turned my eyes again and again to the incarnation and the wonderful gift of Jesus.

That I still try to live a writing life in any way is partly due to her encouragement. That I am an Anglican is also attributable to her, at least in part, for it was Madeleine who introduced me to the beauty of the seasons of the church year.

That introduction came about in her book The Irrational Season. It was the first of her non-fiction books I'd ever read. I'd spent most of my adolescence reading her fiction for both children and adults. On my 18th birthday, my sister Martha gave me a copy of The Irrational Season, one of what's known as the "Crosswicks" journals, a series of confessional type reflections Madeleine wrote mostly in the 70s.

My sister had just gone to a Madeleine L'Engle reading at the University of Connecticut. She had a chance to meet her, and Madeleine signed my book. "For Beth, May all your seasons be blessed." I have a feeling that it was a standard line she wrote in many people's books, but that doesn't mean I didn't treasure the message, especially given all that I had already come to learn from her (and more I would come to learn) about seasons and blessings. She was so important to me in so many seasons. Two of her books in particular helped me through deep, growing times: A Ring of Endless Light, which helped me navigate adolescence, and A Severed Wasp, the only novel I could really read during the one brief period of my life that I went through a serious depression.

Over the years, I read some of her books so many times that they're yellowed and practically in tatters. I still have my first copy of Wrinkle, and it's literally been read to pieces! Last night as I prowled through my L'Engle shelves, I realized I really think of them in those terms, because I have two complete shelves (over 40 of her books) set aside just for her work.

There's so much more I could say...and maybe I will later. But for now, I just wanted to say thank you, Madeleine, and blessings to you in your new journey into the fullness of glory. Thank you for your stories, and for passing on to me your deep, deep love of story and the Story. May all your seasons be blessed. May you feast at the essential table and enjoy the companionship of all the saints, including your beloved Hugh and Bion. And may you finally get that heavenly music lesson with Grandpa Bach that you so long anticipated!


Erin said...

A beautiful and heartfelt reflection, and I don't think it at all strange that you feel the loss so deeply. She certainly left an impressive legacy.

I read A Ring of Endless Light for summer reading before my senior year of high school, but at that point the required reading had deteriorated to the point that we had a list of 20 or so different books to choose from, and all we had to do was sign a form saying we'd read one of them. I really would have enjoyed some class discussion on that one...

Beth said...

Oh, it's such a wonderful book. It's one of the ones I've read so many times I couldn't possibly count. I wanted to BE Vicky Austin for much of my teen years. :-)

If we decide to do a L'Engle reading blog, let's definitely read that one together!

Kathy said...

I came upon your blog by accident, while looking for something else (isn't that the way it often is on the web!). Just want to say that I, too, cried when I heard Madeleine L'Engle had died. And, like you, Lewis and Madeleine have been, I think, the writers who have had the most influence on me. Lewis on the way I think. Madeleine on how I write and on how I define what a "really good" story is.

You may already know this, but if you live in the New York area, there will be a public memorial (date to be announced) around the date of her birthday.

Beth said...

Hi Kathy, glad you "stumbled" here while blog-hopping. One of the nicest things about the web, I think.

Lewis and L'Engle have definitely been two of the deepest writers of my heart for many years.

Yes, I'd heard about the public memorial service, though I doubt I will be able to attend as it will be close to family thanksgiving travels and we are not that near NY. Are you thinking of attending?

Feel free to wander back here anytime...visitors welcome!

Kathy said...

That would be fun, but no, I won't be attending. I live in Canada and we don't celebrate Thanksgiving at the same time the States does. So no holiday time to travel and it's a long drive.