I've never been much of an opera fan, but listening to the excerpts of Luciano Pavarotti during the numerous NPR tributes to him, gave me the chills. I don't think you have to be an opera fan to appreciate that kind of power and emotion.
But all that singing drowned out the news that Madeline L'Engle also died Thursday. She was a favorite author of mine and one of the few I have met. She came to do a reading/signing at our tiny little local bookstore several years ago at the request of someone who spent summers here, but knew her in Manhattan. I remember cutting an evening class I was taking at the time to attend the event. It was a magical October evening, the room was compeletely packed, and I was impressed at how encouraging she was of the children in the audience, many of whom expressed a desire to be a writer. How lucky I would have been to meet her at age 10.
As a teenager, It took me a couple of readings to get the full message of A Wrinkle in Time, but as the oldest and perhaps least secure child with an unbreakable father-daughter bond (even in death), I saw a lot of myself in Meg. I also got my first memorable glimpse of a working mother in Mrs. Murray, conducting experiments in an at-home lab and cooking over a bunsen burner.
But I came to really know L'Engle as an adult through her Crosswicks Journal series, named after her home in Connecticut. In them, she shared her experiences trying to get published, her experiences raising a family while trying to write, and minding a general store with her husband Hugh Franklin, her life after losing her mother, and then her husband, and reflections on her relationship with God.
It is not mentioned in the New York Times tribute and barely in the Washington Post, but she is often referred to as a Christian mystic; someone who has experienced God. It was L'Engle's writings that persuaded me to try the Anglican/Episcopal Church when I was looking for somewhere more welcoming of my humanity than the Catholic Church.
Her relationship with God was not without its struggles, and although I have read many, many of her spiritual explorations, it is this quote from the first Crosswicks Journal, A Circle of Quiet that sticks in my mind and best defines my own journey:
"...I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts."
Thank you Madeline, for being so gracious, for sharing your struggles as a writer, mother, and believer.
An older, but more complex discussion of Madeline L'Engle can be found at Half Changed World.