Friday, September 28, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A number of religious congregations purchased of inherited property along the Hudson River around 1900. South of us the Marist Brothers maintained a novitiate in an impressive mansion. Further south the Episcopal Order of the Holy Cross built their monastery. The well-known author of young adult literature, most famous for "A Wrinkle in Time", Madeleine L'Engle presented an annual writers workshop at Holy Cross through the 1980s and 90s. In 1984 two sisters from this monastery took part in her workshop and introduced her to the res of the community. It became her custom to plan for afternoon tea at our monastery during each of her workshops thereafter. On each occasion she brought along some of her students and all joined the community for Evening Prayer after a time of wonderful conversation. During the 90s I was a lay associate of the community here and was therefore able to wrangle an invitation to a couple of these most pleasant and illuminating conversations with the tall, elegant, very spiritual and very down to earth author and her interesting friends.
My introduction to Madeleine L'Engle's work did not come through the famous A Wrinkle in Time or other titles in her fantasy genre series. I met her in her autobiographical trilogy, The Crosswicks Journal, consisting of Circle of Quiet (Book 1), The Summer of the Great Grandmother (Book 2), and The Irrational Season (Book 3). The first is a reflection on the ordinary life and its extraordinary implications. The second caught me first as it told so movingly of the experience of caring for her mother and accompanying her in the process of her death. The last is probably the most overtly spiritual of the three as it explores the varied stages of her life and her roles as professional woman, wife, mother and grandmother.
Years later, following the death of her husband, she wrote another memorable and very personal book about her long marriage to Hugh Franklin, who, for many years, played the part of Dr. Tyler on the ABC soap opera "All My Children." The book, Two Part Invention, was a touching and realistic portrait of the marriage and all that was necessary in love and fidelity to keep it intact. Every married woman I recommend it to loved it.
During the 90s I had the great privilege to be invited by a friend to accompany her to a reading by Madeleine and her grand-daughter in her East Side Manhattan apartment. Her charm, her intelligence, her keen interest in every person was all the more evident in her own home.
When we learned of Madeleine's death Sr. Margaret said, "She was a great lady." Indeed. I can't help but think that the character Meg Murray of Wrinkle in Time fame paved the way for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Is like the dew that moistens the grass,
Is like the rain-soaked air that lets things grow.
In the same way you should radiate kindness
To all who are filled with longing.
Be a wind, helping those in need.
Be a dew, consoling the abandoned.
Be the rain-soaked air, giving heart to the weary,
Filling their hunger with instruction
By giving them your soul.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
This bucolic scene brings Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to mind with an aura of summer adventures, packs of boys inventing their days as pirates, explorers, or Indian scouts. It also brings a sensation of deja vu, of having been there or done this before. Only back then it was with three of my own little boys, discovering the world, building sand castles, trying to dam up streams, designing the ideal tree house. It was a challenge to keep up with their energy, with their curiosity and their adventurous, fearless natures. What a blessing that was! What a dear time!
Another blessing shared with many grandparents is the sheer pleasure of watching your child become a parent, seeing a son or daughter transformed into the total giver every good parent has to become. Many have agreed with me that within two generations, the level of involvement of fathers in the lives of their children has increased dramatically. Some of this has happened of necessity and two working parents became the norm to support a family and share in the work of raising children. But something else has also been at work here. The women's liberation movement has also liberated men to the point that it is now perfectly acceptable for a young father and husband to change a diaper, shop with babies and toddlers along for the educational experience and to be engaged with their children to an extent not often seen only 40 to 50 years ago.