Reading Bandersnatch – C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, I’m struck by this quote by Tolkien’s son regarding his father’s writing process for The Lord of the Rings:
“It was far indeed from being a fixed text, and did not remain unchanged even in certain fundamental ideas concerning the world it portrays… As the years passed the changes and variants…became so complex, so pervasive, and so many-layered that a final and definitive version seemed unattainable.”
And then this, by Glyer: “Tolkien was constantly working on the world he had invented. Some of the most foundational aspects of plot and characters kept changing. Even the nature of Middle-earth remained in flux throughout his life.”
What strikes me about it is this: that an author whose genius achieved perhaps the most thorough creation of a fictitious world in literary history (complete with its own original and unique geography, history, populations, languages, alphabetic scripts etc.) – though indeed reflecting, by his act of sub-creation, the Creator of our own true world – was not able to come near the genius that must reside in the God who created an entire universe (ex nihilo!).
Our world, though replete with the seemingly endless variations available to free-willed characters, nevertheless has had an Author immutable in His one clear-minded, unchanging purpose and plot since before the beginning until after the end! Wow. Not even genius compares.
How can we respond except to say, “Glory to God alone”?
This morning I turned the page of the calendar on my wall.
Then I took a walk to Field 12.
It’s a fallow paddock in the back corner of the farm. There I stood and gazed over the barren rectangle of soil, and it looked just like that calendar page: all blank and waiting to be filled.
And I wondered.
There are these boundaries that You give us. Fences and fields and months and days.
And nothing we can do will alter those borders.
Oh, but the crop!
We are farmers in Your image and we can choose which seeds to plant.
And as my Man of the Soil ponders which variety will yield, and what timing is right, even as he looks forward into an uncertain season…so I kneel here in the empty dirt and ponder the choices I have.
To sow fear or faith, hope or despair, courage and kindness or bitter recoil.
I look up at a dry sky and feel a parching wind on my skin.
And I decide.
I know what I want to harvest when the seasons have their turn.
Because I will return to this field and I will reap what I have sown and so I bend down with my knees in the dust and I feel the earth beneath my fingers as I dig.
And I plant my will.
I let it die and I bury it deep and I cover it with the dark earth.
I will wait.
I will trust it to the magic of the soil and rain and sun.
It will sprout here in the square plot of December.
Hope will soon push its green shoots up and into the glorious air.
Because a calendar is a field and my will is a seed and it must die to be reborn – and when that happens, it will yield a hundredfold.
Glory be to the Farmer who tills the soil of this horizoned month.
I will watch for the tender stems and leaves to shake the black earth from their tips. But while I walk here – and while I wait – I will trust the invisible work underground.
As I walked home I passed a field where the harvest is underway.
I give thanks for what has been.
As well as for what is to come.
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
…Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
…for you I wait all the day long.
I feel shock and the wound of the words like steel through my flesh and deep into my soul and a hole it has rent in my heart and I hurt for the chests it has torn I am worn and I wake with the ache in the night and I yearn to return with an offer for flight but You warn and I scorn the temptation to be dark emissary All Hallows’ Eve
Won’t You cleave broken lives with the blood of Yours gifted we’re sifted and reeling begging You for the Healing
Oh, for the way You can make a day golden – soft Spring weather neither sultry nor chilled, but gentle, sweet, and nuanced… Unfurling buds not quite open-throated but subtle in their hope; lawn freshly mown and rainwater-green; trees fed by lightning and polished by hardly hail. Wiggle-tail lambs and milk-pure cats and a breeze like the breath of a child. Sonnets and soliloquy for morning tea. Noon is a room soaked with sunshine and silence and the stillness of books. And at twilight a supper al fresco in the sown-farm air, with candlelight under constellations of jasmine stars. Finally, flat backed on the black trampoline, all of us, chins inkward and mouths open to swallow the wonderment, and eyes reflecting the spill of that Milky stain…we worship You.
Oh, for the way You can make a night diamond!
My mother is the warmest, most comforting, favourite and familiar book, read in front of a fire on a frosty June-winter eve…all steaming with hot drinks and feasting treats and sparkling light. That is her atmosphere. She is golden sun breaking on a cloudy coastal day, soft on your back but all dazzling in your laughing eyes.
Visits with her rightly involve clamouring children sharing her love, but her phone calls are like prayer: blessed, one-on-one intimacy, all private and sure. It’s like Jesus’ crowded celebrity during His time on earth, compared with the Holy Spirit now indwelling.
Thank You, Father of all mothers: that when I cry, literally (and aloud, some days) to You…she is the answer You so very often send. That among all the authors and teachers and speakers and writers from whom I love to learn…this woman above all, who hears You and obeys You and is a real human being with flesh on in my life, is not only my neighbour but my mother.
She encourages us to thank and praise, and so we do it: we circle around the music and we sing it loud.
We mean it.
We believe it.
And we thank You for her.
“Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” (George Eliot, Middlemarch)
This Summer, this evening, this dusty antipodean road… it comes when I am not expecting it: that haunting, silent song.
(I am driving, solitary, along a half-remembered route, past fields that make my heart weep for the memories I thought I’d forgotten. The road, it is a timeline; a linear memory. There the fields we horse-rode as children, there the paddock we all midnight stole as youths; there the emptiness of space where the house burned down years later, its absent chimneys an erased mark against the late sky.)
It comes now, of a sudden. The Aslanic note. A clarion call. More like gravity than tune, it is at once a sound, a force, a quality of light.
I last heard it as a child.
It would call, inaudibly, across my father’s fields, and I would fix my curious gaze intently towards the setting sun. There was something beyond the western horizon (I couldn’t tell how far or near) which drew my heart: a silent lure.
I never found its source, and its golden memory faded like the sunset fades to dark.
It is only now, as I approach this place in the afterglow of dusk, that I hear it, Doppler-like: an echo from so many years before. It crescendos as though it was kept waiting for now, for this moment as I draw unsuspecting near. And I recognise it with breath caught and unexhaled.
A heartbeat jerks and pauses like the kangaroos which lift their heads from their grazing in the startle of my approach. They wait, alert and listening, because their lives depend on the perceiving.
I should have known it was You.
But I’d never guessed it was him.
Now twenty years since the diamond pledge, You let me learn it.
The song of this man. I am driving right past the farm gate where he grew up.
It was him? All along?
That sound was his heart-home?
Your soundless answer thrills me as it resonates in my core.
It was the call of our future.
It is the echo of Abode.