Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wise Women Wednesday

I don't have much time today but I wanted to get a Wise Women Wednesday post up . . . I read my title from yesterday and decided to go with one of the women whose art has Saved My Life many times: Madeleine L'Engle.

A few of her nonfiction books I truly believe were sent from Heaven during a dark time. Not depressed. Not angry. Just dark . . . foggy, awkward . . . I was living in a dark house, and for some reason I painted our living room a dark navyblue. That blue is the color I feel when I think about that time. Newly married, feeling like a fish out of water for so many reasons . . . (Yesterday Jim was taking some things to the trash and I gave him a painting I did during that time. He looked at it and said, this painting perfectly describes you during that year. It was dark blue, a still life that didn't know where to go).

Madeleine came in, turned the lights on, cozied up the place, handed me my Bible and little bits of magic fluttered out.

She died last year just before my second daughter was born.

A few of my favorite Madeleine quotes: (these are all taken from Walking On Water, but other non-fiction books I love are: The Rock that is Higher, Bright Evening Star, and Madeleine L'Engle, Herself).

We are afraid of the Transfiguration for much the same reason that people are afraid that theatre is a “lie,” that a story isn’t “true,” that art is somehow immoral, carnal and not spiritual. The artist must be open to the wider truths, the shadow side, the strange worlds beyond time. . . .
The Christian holiday which is easiest for us is Christmas, because it
touches on what is familiar; and the story of the young man and woman who were turned away from the inn, and had a baby in a stable, surrounded by gentle animals, is one we have known always. I doubt if many two or three year-olds are told at their mother’s knee about the Transfiguration or the Annunciation. And so, because the story of Christmas is part of our folklore (we might almost say), we pay more attention to its recognizableness than to the fact that the tiny baby in the manger contained the power which created the galaxies and set the stars in their courses.

We are not taught much about the wilder aspects of Christianity. But these are what artists have wrestled with throughout the years. The Annunciation has been a favorite subject of painter and poets, because gestation and birth-giving are basic to any form of creation. All of us who have given birth to a baby, to a story, know that it is ultimately mystery, closely knit to God’s own creative activities which did not stop at the beginning of the universe. God is constantly creating, in us, through us, with us, and to co-create with God is our human calling. . . .
In literal terms the Annunciation can only confound us. But the whole story of Jesus is confounding to the literal minded. It might be a good idea if, like the White Queen, we practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast, for we are called to believe what to many people is impossible. Instead of rejoicing in this glorious “impossible” which gives meaning and dignity to our lives, we try to domesticate God, to make his mighty actions comprehensible to our finite minds. . .

It is one of the greater triumphs of Lucifer that he has managed to make Christians (Christians!) believe that a story is a lie, that a myth should be outgrown by puberty, that to act in a play is inconsistent with true religion.

. . . he did not spend a lot of time looking for the most qualified people, the most adult. Instead, he chose people who were still childlike enough to leave the known comforts of the daily world, the security of their jobs, their reasonable way of life, to follow him.

For the past several generations we’ve forgotten what psychologists call our archaic understanding, a willingness to know things in their deepest, most mythic sense. We’re all born with archaic understanding, and I’d guess that the loss of it goes directly along with the loss of ourselves as creators.

But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.


charrette said...

Oh, I love Madeleine L'engle too! I have one of her books on my nightstand right now.

Your last line is a keeper. That is at the heart of who I am.

Listen, I was trying to find an email address for you to respond to the great comment you left on my blog. But you have hidden your contact info very well. :)

So...I'm resorting to something truly obnoxious and leaving my response here in your comments box. Not for the sake of being obnoxious -- just because I really wanted to talk to you about this. So here's what I was just about to email you: (everyone else stop reading) :)

. . . . . . . . . .

Oh, yeah -- you're an artist, too! That's one of the things I instantly loved about you and your blog.

I'm actually planning to do a post -- sometime -- on how to nurture the budding artist in your children. Kind of an Art Ed 101 for moms.

Thanks for the good wishes. The first day went great. My students actually applauded. I'm an adjunct. The only courses I teach right now are watercolor. (Have you tried watercolor?) I'll send you my Deceptively Simple Rules if you're interested. (Someday they will become a book, but not anytime soon.)

Anyway, if you want to see more, this is my website:

Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

Heather of the EO said...

Have you read Waking the Dead by John Eldredge; or The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus. Just wondering. :)