Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Journals, Questions, and Four Small Degrees

Perhaps this might typically be called a Madeleine L'Engle binge, this insatiable desire I have to read her every thought, scribble and line.

I'm like an addict, making sure I have another book of hers on my shelf before I finish the current read. Addicted.

The one I'm currently reading has been as deeply invaded as a journal - with writing, tabs, thoughts, me.

And, get this: I am four degrees of separation from Madeleine L'Engle.

I just learned this.

My friend Elizabeth, the brilliantly gifted Anglican priest - who simultaneously cusses like a sailor and makes me think deeply - sat in the audience of Luci Shaw during her college years. Lucy is a thinker, writer, speaker, theologian, and - not least on the list - Madeleine L'Engle's best friend.

Elizabeth stood in line to meet her after Lucy spoke, and their brief conversation was the spark of an intimate friendship.

Elizabeth has eaten dinner in Luci Shaw's home.

(I just had to take a break from typing to clench my hands together in delight. Just needed to say that.)

One evening, at Lucy's home, Elizabeth saw a stack of 8 1/2 x 11 pages, all marked in red and sitting on a shelf.

"What's that over there, Luci?"

"Oh, that's Madeleine's newest manuscript. I'm taking a look at it for her."

(Insert my clenched, delighted hands once more.)

Perhaps you can hear the angelic chorus singing in my head.

Madeleine L'Engle is best friends with Luci Shaw who mentored my friend Elizabeth who met me for coffee yesterday.

One, two, three, four. It's like I know Madeleine, really.


I say all of that to say this, the real meat of this monologue. (Although that last deluge of thoughts was certainly not without profundity, I'm sure you agree.)

When she met Luci Shaw, Elizabeth was face-to-face with a personal, spiritual crisis. A Christian Education major, she churned with questions about all that she was learning, questions about how any of this could really, truly be real.

Lucy spoke on the art of journaling, about a recent pilgrimage to Israel and the pages she filled with questions, responses, thoughts, and reflections.

When Elizabeth spoke to her, with tears and raw humility, she asked, "But what if all I have are questions?"

And with beauty, dignity, and raw response, Luci Shaw said:

"Then you write down the questions."

I have a new journal and a stack of pens: To write down the questions.

Compliments of Elizabeth.

(And Luci and Madeleine. Sort of.)


Jaimie said...

That's awesome. A friend of a friend of mine once drove her to the airport. (L'Engle.) So I am also four [very weak] degrees separated.

... or maybe that was Margaret Atwood. I can't remember.

Maggie-Rose said...

Have you read "A Circle of Quiet"? by L'Engle? I love all of the books in her Crosswicks Journal collection.

Heidi J Johns said...

Madeleine L'Engle visited my college senior thesis class, but I, unfortunately and sadly, was sick that day. To be one of thirteen in a room with her for two hours would have been very lucky indeed. And the degree of separation would have closed. Alas, it was not meant to be for this writer. :(

Robin said...

And how about this?! Lucy Shaw is my great aunt! Her first husband, Harold, was my grandpa's brother. And you and I are sisters-in-Christ, so I don't think it's too far off to say that you are quite near to her indeed :o)