Saturday, September 08, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

Like most of my other blogging friends, I feel compelled to blog about the loss of Madeleine L'Engle, who died this week in her late 80s. Though unlike most of my other blogging friends, I don't feel I have much eloquent to say.

My 9-year-old son happens to be reading A Wrinkle in Time this week, for the first time. It's strange to think how, when he started the book several days ago, the author was alive, but he'll end it after she's gone.

I read and liked A Wrinkle in Time as a child, and I suspect my budding scientist son will like it, too. But my favorite book of hers--actually the book I usually consider my favorite book ever--was and is A Ring of Endless Light. Which in fact deals with death, and grief. Also with dolphins. Dolphins have been my favorite animal ever since I read that book at age 13. For some reason, I never read the whole series of books about the Austins... I think I may have read one other, but it was almost like that one book was so perfect to me, I felt like reading another would somehow take away from it. Irrational, I'm sure, but I was 13 and in love with a book.

I wrote a long letter to Madeleine L'Engle when I was 13. It was maybe 2 or 3 pages, which I suspect blathered on about how much I liked the book and the dolphins and how much it meant to me. But I also remember it was about my wanting to be a writer. Specifically a young adult writer. I think I asked for advice about my own writing. Sadly, stupidly, I lost the letter before I sent it. By the time I gave it up for lost, I felt I could never recreate it. So I never wrote to her. Years later, my father, who worked in Christian publishing for a while, actually knew her in person slightly from some conferences they attended together. I wondered if I should send her another letter then, but felt again like I'd lost my chance, or like I could never remember what I wanted to say, or at least not with the passion of a 13-year-old with a book fresh in her mind. I considered writing about how she'd inspired me as a child, and about how I still wanted to write, and my curiosity on how to juggle faith and fiction. But I didn't. And so now, it's like the last bell sounding to let me know I waited too long. I'm sad, realizing she might have written back, and I might have had a letter from her now. (I do have one somewhere from Judy Blume.) Maybe it would have even helped me to get started sooner on this writing thing!

But for Madeleine L'Engle herself, I'm not feeling particularly sad, given her age and her well-lived life, and all she left the world while she was here. I know she's in a better place, enjoying that endless light. And for the rest of us, I'm happy for the things she left behind for us and future children to spur our thoughts, inspire us, and expand our minds.

1 comment:

sarah said...

I stumbled on your blog today, and this post hit home. My favorite L'Engle book (and really, an all-time favorite) is "Ring of Endless Light". For all the same reasons you wrote. Like you, I read only one other Austin family novel and nothing struck me the same way as "Ring of Endless Light". Thanks to this post, I am off to find a new copy for my personal connection!