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September 22, 2007

all rainy in a day

it's raining, quite beautifully, here in parched Los Angeles. it began to fall late yesterday evening, and the scene outside this morning is the complete opposite of that classic Ray Bradbury short story, "All Summer In a Day," where kids anxiously wait for the sun to come out after seven straight years of rain. here, in the perennially dry city, where no one ever makes alternate plans "in case of rain," the sky is pure blue with enormous, puffy clouds. still, the rain is coming down in a steady patter, and the air smells newly, softly clean, like the top of a newborn baby's head, as Bono would say.
the street outside my window is full of neighbourhood children who are deliriously splashing around in puddles, giggling their heads off. watchful parents make sure they are staying close to the sidewalk. all of them are wearing brightly-colored galoshes and one is carrying a giant umbrella that is bigger than his entire body. one is running in circles in his driveway, yelling, "it's rain, Mommy!" T.T. points out that for some of these kids, including the small boy with leprechaun-green rubber boots determinedly jumping over and over in one puddle, this may be the first serious rain they know. he called me outside yesterday when the first drops started falling, and we stood on the sidewalk, arms around each other, grateful faces upturned. "it's like a first snow," he said. "it should be acknowledged."
i'm tempted to go join the kids, but i don't need to. they are having good, safe, kid-version rain frolic. i already did the less-safe grown-up version last night. this consisted of bursting outside at midnight, no shoes or coat, and running all-out down the middle of the street, palms upstretched to the falling rain, and then having to abruptly swerve into a neighbour's lawn when an unexpected pair of headlights suddenly appeared in front of me. i had first jump of all those puddles the kids are now splashing in, and this makes me feel inexplicably smug. "ha!" i think. "i already jumped in your puddles and i was BAREFOOT! ha!"
of course, because i am a grown-up, i know what's in that water. when i went back inside i promptly scrubbed my feet down with hot water and plenty of soap. sometimes you have to be practical too...

Posted by hadashi at 5:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2007

dear Madeleine,

i'm sorry i didn't write this thank-you note to you a few weeks earlier, because now you'll never see it. when you were alive, it seemed quite silly to write to a popular author to tell her how much her work has meant to you. now that you've gone Home, it seems even sillier that i didn't.
like so many other young children, the first book i read by you was the now-classic A Wrinkle in Time. i was excited that not only did it feature a girl hero, but that what saves her brother/the world, after all, is simply love. as a small person, the idea that love was powerful enough to save the world was not sappy or idealistic to me. it was a very real and true thing in my life, because my parents loved me and my sister loved me and my friends and my grandparents and lots of other people loved me and i felt very safe about all that. plus, i knew that you loved Jesus too, and since He is the embodiment of love saving the world, i felt like your creative imagination and mine were quite compatible.
i spent a lot of time looking up things you wrote about in the big set of World Book Encyclopedias that lined the bookshelf in our hallway. i would sit on the cold black tiles of the floor, because tropical Okinawa was very hot, and pore over the things you had the Murry family deal with: mitochondria, tesseracts, stories in Genesis, astronomy, organ regrowth, kything, unicorns and dragons, Venezuela. as i discovered your other books, my world grew larger and my imagination felt like it could stretch out and relax into your stories. some stories were dark and bloody and frightening, yet there were always the threads of light that won out in the end. some stories introduced me to the truth that by loving others, you opened yourself up to a really complicated life. most importantly, though, you helped me realise the God i loved was a God of imagination too, one whose creative powers had flung the millions of stars into their places and set down the wild and untameable laws of nature; that He was a God Who loved myth and story and beauty and adventure, Who could not be contained. i loved Him all the more for it. i loved me all the more for it -- and that is not a small thing, to help a young girl finding her way actually love herself.
as i grew from girl to tenuous woman, i discovered more truth and struggle and holiness in your nonfiction books along with the fiction. i saw how needful it was to cultivate friendships of deep trust with other women. and any illusion that finding, loving, keeping, and making a life with a man would be simple was dissolved by your insights. you gave me a good template to refer back to as i carved out my place, learning how to be my own person, clinging fiercely to my faith, my imagination, and my sense of humour. you taught me that i could gracefully move into adulthood without losing wonder or fun or simplicity. and i'm not that old now, but i'm old enough to have experienced the truth of something you said: "I am not at all convinced that life without conflict is desirable. There's not much conflict in the grave, but while we're alive the only creative choice is the choice of conflict." when i read this for the first time, it was an electrifyingly novel concept that ran counter to everything i was being taught. you helped me understand how to welcome conflict and complexity without fear -- again, no small thing to affirm a young woman's dreams and selfhood.
but what i have to thank you for the most is that you articulated, over and over and over again, the deepest struggles and truths of my faith. there were many times i almost lost it, and each time it got the most silent and the darkness became the most dense, something you wrote would scamper across my path, leaving that thread of light behind it. i still take refuge in The Rock That is Higher to codify and remind me of who my spiritual self truly is when the clamour of both people of faith and those who think i believe in nonsense challenge that part of me. i did not grow up within a liturgical tradition, but your prayer and poetry books helped me frame my conversations with God in ways that no devotional ever could. you not only helped me find my voice, but then also gave me words -- beautiful, honest, lyrical, stark, vulnerable, strong words -- with which to use it. no small thing, to be sure.
so thank you, Madeleine L'Engle, thank you for not believing the teachers who said you were stupid, for not wallowing in the two dozen rejections you got before finally being published, for doing crazy things like going to Antarctica after almost dying in a car crash. thank you for being courageous and unflinching and curious and generous and funny and human and a mighty woman of truth spoken in love. and thank you for giving this small girl the vision to be all those things as well.
goodbye, Madeleine. i can't wait to see you when i get Home too.

Posted by hadashi at 3:22 PM | Comments (0)