a Narnia encounter (5)

 

giant's wonder[This is a continuing meditation. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here; part 3 is here; part 4 is here]

A day has come and gone. The giant is beside me and we are sitting together in the clearing. He says that the magpies have brought a message that there will be an assembly tonight. He hugs his knees and rocks himself, humming softly a rumbling tune. There is a eagerness in his presence that is hard to miss.

“What will happen at the assembly?” I ask him.

“We shall see, we shall. “ he replies.

“Couldn’t you give me a hint?” I find my impatience rising, again. Seems I never quite learn.

“A hint? I just told you what will happen – we will see.   Really see. We will know what is to be done. We will see the Lion. Really see him. With our own eyes.”

“Have you never seen him?” His eagerness reminds me of a child, ready to open a gift.

“Not till tonight.” He closes his eyes to get a bit closer to the coming moment. I close my eyes as well and listen to his rumbling melody. At first is sounded rather clumsy, but when I let myself relax into it, a hidden majesty is evident – a majesty born, not of titles and honors and acclaim, but of humble service done with dedication. His simple faith is pure and strong, much less complicated than my own, or so it seems.

Eyes closed, I lean back into the rumbling melody as if into a chair. It holds me up, comforts me, builds me.

“Thank you for the tune,” I say aloud.

“I learned it from the mountains,” comes his reply. “The waterfall at Deista sings it, too.”

It starts to hum itself within my heart and wakens emotions that lie dormant there. Wonder, awe, excitement and solemn ecstasy compete to fill my heart. I sit beside the giant and begin to weep.

He looks at me with a knowing smile. His eyes are also damp. “When He begins to play his tunes within your heart, it stretches you, it does, until you ache with joy. He must make room, you know. He is coming.”

 

[image edited from photo by Rach per cc 2.0]

a Narnian encounter (4)

giant's hand[This is a continuing meditation. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here; part 3 is here]

I sit on the beach quite a while, absorbing the wordless lessons of the waves, watching the small shells wash in and out with the receding water. After a bit, the giant comes to join me. He sits down with a harrumph and digs his toes into the sand. He reaches out beside himself, smoothing the sand as if it were a blanket. He digs out a shell and turns it over in his fingers, admiring its beauty.

At last I turn to him. “I never asked your name,” I say with some hesitance, realizing that I have been happy to use him as a messenger and even as transportation, but I have not even stopped to reach to relationship. How often do I do that? How often do I place importance on utility over relationship? I turn my head to hide my embarrassment.

“They call me Cecil, they do,” he answers me.

I turn to him. “That’s very like my name,” I reply. He nods and smiles. He knows this. He seems to know my name without even asking. “Tell me about yourself.” I venture.

“I’m big,” he says, as if that is a revelation. “I’m not so good with words, but I know deep things. I feel them in my heart before they come into my head. The thinking part is harder for me than the knowing part.”

“We make a good pair, we do.” I say this almost before I think it and he smiles.

“We do,” he says. “Always, we have.”

With that reply, I find within myself a resonance. It is as if, for just a moment, I, like the giant feel it in my heart before it comes into my head. I give him a sideways glance and see that his smile has turned into a wide grin. He reaches out his hand on the sand beside me and drums his fingers. He is inviting me to play some kind of game with him that I do not know.

I put my hand on his and drum my fingers. I feel his movement beneath mine and feel its echo, its resonance, its strength as it is transferred into me. Again the knowing comes before the thinking. Cecil is not just a companion. Cecil is part of who I am – the part of me that touches deep.

The voices on the wind give conformation. Somehow I trust their truth.

This is me. This is the meeting.

[kudos to Jonathan Haidt with his metaphor of the rider and the elephant …]
[photo by Benzene Aseel per cc 2.0]

a Narnia encounter (3)

along the beach[This is a continuing meditation. Part 1 is here; part 2 is here.]

I wait … and fidget … and wait some more.

Too often my mind rushes ahead of my day and I leave the real moments of my life behind. I have not learned to stay put; to live life as it comes, rather than waiting to live until my plans develop. (Which, of course, they never quite do.)

I think of the giant who brought me here as a simple soul, but he is wiser than I have realized. He seems content … or rather, he seems quite pleased … to do his part and trust that the rest will unfold as it should. That is not so easy for me.

And what is my part in this adventure? All I’ve done to this point is to ride in his pocket and sleep beside the fire. Oh, and keep the fire going in spite of fear. That, too. But what will I be asked to do from here? That is the part of the fear I have not quite vanquished.

So, I wait and I fidget.

I get up to walk along the beach, along the smooth wet edge close to the water. I watch the faint bubbles that form as my feet press the water out of the sand with each step. I breathe in deeply and smell the salt air. The smell of the salt tells me that this must be an inlet from the sea.

As I walk, I come upon a large flat rock that juts out into the water – a finger of rock that reaches out from a large rocky cliff that towers up above. I crawl out on the rocky ledge and let my feet dangle. The slap of the waves reaches to my feet with every undulation. There is a rhythm there that soothes me. I am caught and released with each pull of the waves, as if the sea, itself, might be having a wordless conversation with my soul.

Perhaps, if I can just release my urgency, I can learn to live in simple trust, like my giant friend.

My toes catch a strand of seaweed.

Suddenly the weed climbs up my leg and tugs me into the water. I try to hold on to the rock, but this all happens too fast and I am pulled down, down, into the cold. After my initial panic I notice that there is an opening under the rock I had been sitting on – an entrance to a cave that, surprisingly, is lit within. I reach down and loosen the seaweed from my leg and move forward into the cave. It isn’t long until I come out into an inner cavern, with its own beach, its own hidden cove.

I sit for just a moment on a twin rock on that shore. I look around and listen for any clues about what will happen next.

And then, beside me on the rock, there is a presence. It is a presence that I know. Not so clear, perhaps, as the voices on the wind … but very definitely there. I take in a breath, slowly, and let it out, letting my soul settle a bit into this presence.

“Hello,” I venture.

“Hello,” is the whispered reply.

“Is this the meeting I was called to?”

“It is one such meeting. There are many.”

“Ah.” I wait a bit. “It takes a lot to get my attention, doesn’t it?”

The presence smiles, though I don’t know how I know this. I have no real vision of this One. But there is a smile, and a reply, “It does take a bit, sometimes. That is the way of things. It is so easy to get lost in the rush of activity.”

“There is so much to do,” I try to explain. “There are so many people who depend upon me.”

“Ah,” again the smile. The very silence helps me see the silliness of this response.

“I don’t know quite how to do this.” I try again.

“Ah,” another silence and then the presence reaches out to my hand, which is resting upon the rock, wrapping me in a warmth that travels up my arm into my heart. “Knowing is not always necessary.”

I try to be content with this answer. I try to remember the peaceful acceptance of the giant. I try, but to no avail. I don’t know what to do with the quiet. It always seems that my mind wanders off somewhere on its own, or chatters on with anxious energy. I keep trying to pull it back to where we are.

The presence begins to sing, slowly, softly. It is as if I only hear it with my soul. Yet, its rhythms begin to smooth the wrinkles in my heart, the furrows on my brow. I lean back upon the rock and let the song sweep over me. Each measure is a pulse of steady comfort.

When I wake, later, I can tell I have been here quite a while. The presence has gone … or at least is not so palpable. I feel deeply rested – a feeling that I have not felt for a long, long time. It is as if I have put down a burden that I did not know I was carrying. I sigh. I smile. I roll over and slip back into the water and find way back to the beach of the giant’s island. I sit in the sun, feet in the sand of that beach, at peace.

Now, at last, I may be ready for the meeting the giant heard about on the wind. Ironically, I am ready, but no longer anxious, no longer feeling restless.

Because I am ready, I can wait.

[This soul story continues, here.]
[image by Susan Murtaugh per cc 2.0]

a Narnia encounter (2)

peaceful giant[a continued meditation … part 1 is here.]

Suddenly I wake. I have dropped off to sleep beside the giant. He is breathing softly, at least softly for him. I find that in my sleep I have moved toward him, edging toward the warmth of his bulk, though I am a bit fearful that he might roll over on me.

I look toward his face and see that he is awake. Lying on his side, with his head propped up on one hand, he waits for me to open my eyes. He sees me look at him and smiles. “So you wake up, do you? You are ready to start our day?”

I smile back and scramble to my feet. I walk over and stoke the fire, still burning, quietly, slowly. Just barely more than glowing coals, the tiniest of flames dance in the inner chambers of the fire formed in the spaces between the logs. With very little work the fire is strong and warm. I pull up a waiting log for a seat and warm my hands and stretch the soreness out of my body. Some logs were added since last night. I wonder about that briefly, but the giant’s movements catch my attention.

The giant reaches toward the oilskin bag in which he carries his provisions. He pulls a piece of manna from the bag. It is wrapped in a cloth, which he unfolds onto a stone beside him. He breaks a corner from his large loaf and hands it to me. This act, this simple gift, seems very like communion. He shares with me this gift. We break bread, together.

He has a water-skin, too. But he is not sure just how to give me something to drink. I have no cup and this water-skin is far too big for me to lift. Finally, I cup my hands and he pours some water into them. I drink and then rinse my hands with what remains.

“Shall we go?” I ask the giant.

“Go? Why go? We are here, we are.” he replies. “Where do you want to go?”

“Yesterday you said something about taking me to a meeting….” I begin.

“That’s right, a meeting. That meeting is here. Here is where we hold the meeting.”

“Oh.” I’m really a little disappointed that we won’t be moving on. I am filled with a dancing energy from the bread and water, from the fading memory of the night’s adventure. (Was that a dream or was it real?) I pace around the clearing. I reach into my pocket and touch my lighter. “What is this meeting? Who will be coming?”

“I don’t know,” the giant replies. “They sent me to get you and bring you here. They said there was to be a meeting. They sent many to look for you, but I found you, I did, and I brought you here.”

“Who are they?” I ask. “Who sent you for me?”

“The voices on the wind,” he says.

I stop, struck cold. The voices on the wind? I rode in the pocket of this giant far from where I was, because he heard voices on the wind? I’m not so sure about this. But then I remember Aslan. He was here last night, wasn’t he? Sometimes it seems like morning makes things less clear.

I turn to the giant. “How often have you heard these voices?”

“Two times before I have heard them, I have. This time makes three.” He holds up three fingers and seems to be quite proud of himself.

“And who is coming to the meeting?” I ask.

“They didn’t say,” he shrugs his shoulders, “They just said to find you and bring you here.”

I’m a little frustrated by his satisfaction with these incomplete answers. “When is the meeting to begin?”

“Tonight I think…. or tomorrow. They will know when to begin.” He looks at me, curious that I should be so insistent on all these details.

“So what do we do till then?” I ask. I can tell my voice has a bit of an edge.

“We wait.”

We have reached an impasse. The only one who can give me any hints about this meeting is quite content to let it happen on its own. He rises and strides off toward the stream to wash his hands.

I am left to wait, questions unanswered, trying to hold my impatience at bay. I don’t much like waiting. But sometimes that is what is required: to wait.

The difference between me and the giant, here, is that the giant seems, somehow, to trust the unfolding of experience. It’s not so much that he trusts the plan. Indeed, he seems unaware of any plan – or even of any need for one. Instead, he trusts … what? The voices? Perhaps it is that he trusts the one who calls.

I manage a wry smile. Can I trust a call, rather than a plan? I think I’ll plan to do just that …

[this soul story continues, here]

[image cropped and adjusted from photo by Ron Frazier per cc 2.0]

a Narnian encounter

tangled forestI am deep within the woods and I don’t see a clearing anywhere, just tangles of trees and vines and brush. There is a thick carpet of decaying leaves beneath my feet, so no path is evident in this wild and untamed place. There are sounds I cannot identify. There is a sense of mystery and anticipation in the air. The skin at the back of my neck begins to tingle and my fingers tighten, ready to respond to whatever may happen. Suddenly a giant’s boot comes crashing down through the trees. Brown suede, huge, it hits the ground a few yards from where I stand and shakes the whole area.

I am trembling all over, but not so much from fear as from astonished awe. The giant seats himself upon a small hillock that rises in the forest, and reaches down and scoops me up in his hand. He brings me close to his face and cups both of his hands so that I have a secure place to stand, holding on to his thumbs.

I am not scared of this mighty one. He is, like some of the giants in Narnia, a kind and gentle soul. He says, “We have been looking for you, we have. They sent me, they did, to look in the forest and, here, I have found you.” He smiles, pleased with himself, pleased that I have been found and that he was the one to do it.

“Come, I’ll take you to the meeting.” He stands and puts me in the pocket of his tunic. I can stand in the pocket and just look out over the edge, grasping the edges with my hands for stability as he strides along. It is an exhilarating ride. He strides off across the forest, across an even larger plain and forward toward the edge of the sea.

When he reaches the beach, he sits and takes off his boots and slings them over his shoulder. Then he steps into the sea toward an island, just off shore. He gets chest deep in the water, my feet get wet at the bottom of the pocket, before he begins to climb out onto the beach of the island.

The beach extends out in a long low expanse of sand before it is met by the forest. Once his boots are back on, he walks along the beach to where a small river flows from the center of the island out into the sea. There he turns toward the forest, and using the river as a guide, he makes his way inland. He has covered an enormous distance, and it has taken he better part of the day. When we finally make it to the source of the stream, it is dark. There is just enough daylight left for me to gather some sticks to make a fire. He watches me closely, and is taken aback when I reach in my pocket and produce a small lighter and start the fire. “For a small one, you have some power, too, I see,” he says.

He finds a stone for a pillow and curls up and is soon asleep. I lie down by the fire, wrapped in the handkerchief he loaned me, and look up at the stars overhead. Narnian stars. Definitely Narnian stars. I certainly don’t know their constellations – I don’t even know my own, except Orion and the dippers – but I know they are Narnian. There, above me blinks the starry form of Aslan, a new constellation in the Narnian sky, formed when the windows in the woods opened between two worlds more than a century before in Narnian time… I know this, though I do not know how I know it. His eye is the polar star, always in the sky, whatever season, looking down upon Narnia and greeting the sunrise each day.

It feels like an adventure dawning. It feels like hope rising in my heart. It feels like I am on my way to my true home, having been long away. A solemn, joyful and intensely exciting peace rolls over me and carries me away in sleep.

I am wakened in the night by a rumbling beside me. The giant has rolled onto his back and is snoring. I consider my options. I can’t shake the bed…he’s shaking the ground already. I could try to shake him, but if he slaps at me while he’s asleep, I might not duck in time. I could yell into his ear… but do you want to wake a sleeping giant? So, I get up, wrap the handkerchief around my shoulders and stoke the fire.

The moon has risen in the sky, so that there is really quite a bit of light in this clearing where we made our stop. Most of the wood on the fire has been consumed. I rise and go to the edge of the forest to scavenge some more sticks. This all seems so dreamlike to me… I feel no threat at all… after all, a story can’t really hurt you, can it?

Then as I near the edge of the woods, I see a movement behind the trees. Two eyes glint and then are gone. A twig snaps somewhere nearby, but I cannot find quite where. I am caught – halfway between the fire and the woods, in a dilemma. If I return to the fire without any more wood, it will soon go out. But, in order to gather sticks I must go at least a little way into the woods, and I am sure that something is in there. I search the edge of the trees for loose branches and see a small pile off to my right.

I take a step toward the pile, and out of the woods, just from underneath a low hanging grey wolfpine branch steps a wolf. He is silver gray, with dark markings on his powerful shoulders and down his back. His eyes are locked on mine. “The giant sleeps.” he says with a malicious glint in his eye. “Giants don’t wake very easily, and I don’t make much noise in my work.” His eyes cut a hole straight into my soul and I begin to tremble. I take one step back and the wolf shifts his weight.

“What is your work?” I ask him, already knowing what his answer will be.

“My work is to devour you, your hopes, your dreams, your very self. It is a meal that I will savor.” His voice is a low growl, not forceful, but unmistakably full of power.

“I have work of my own.” I am surprised to hear myself speak. The wolf, too, looks a bit surprised.

“You’ll wish that you had done it earlier,” he says, recovering his malicious presence.

“My timing may be off, but the Lord’s is not, and he has brought me here, just now, to do his task.” Some spirit within me is speaking these words, yet they are also mine.

“I have stopped him before,” he says, but this time I know that he is bluffing.

“You cannot stop him. You have no power over him. I know. I know that he rose up over your power and redeemed your most malicious act – turned it into your greatest defeat.”

“You speak too boldly for one as weak and vulnerable as you are. One snap of my jaws and you are gone. That other one,” he cannot even bring himself to say his name, “that other one was sinless. You are not.” He rocks on his paws, shifting his weight from one side to the other and bares his teeth. His eyes burn yellow.

“I was redeemed when you were defeated.” I stop myself…why should I bate this predator? What am I doing?

He growls and prances at the edge of the woods. “Come get the sticks that you desire.” He says, taunting me. “Your fire is dying and will soon grow cold.”

Now I am caught off guard. Somehow I know that the wolf will not leave the shadow of the forest and venture out into the clearing, but the sticks are in the trees. He laughs. I glance back at the fire and see its embers fading. The giant, still asleep, could give me warmth, but he is too oblivious to what is around him. He could crush me with an inadvertent movement. I have no weapon, not even a stick to protect me. I reach into my pocket and pull out my lighter.

“I need the sticks.” I say, with some resolve. “Stand aside.”

“Stand aside?” He is pacing wildly now along the edge of the trees. “Stand aside? You flippant fool. You miserable sinner. You misguided, silly, soul! Come meet me here and find your sticks, if you dare!”

I strike my lighter and the small flame glows. His eyes grow narrow and the hair upon the back of his neck stands on end. He growls long and low. “What is this?” he asks “What do you hold?”

“A light.”

“A light, a light…” he growls and paces.

I take a step toward the pile of sticks and he watches me. Three more steps and I am almost there. His growl grows louder and he gnashes his teeth. I race the last two steps and grab a branch, dry leaves cling to twigs along its surface. He lunges for me and I move the flame of my lighter beneath one of the leaves. The whole branch bursts into sudden flame. He wheels and is gone into the night.

The leaves burn out almost as soon as they flame. Hurriedly I gather a bundle of sticks and take them to the fire. I make one more trip, to assure myself that I have enough for the night and, with my heart still pounding, I drop the last bundle beside the fire. Then I realize that I have dropped my lighter. I see the silver end of it glint in the moonlight just at the edge of the clearing. I walk back with some hesitation to retrieve it, still shaken from the whole encounter.

“Well done, little one.” A voice speaks to me from the woods. “Only the terror you accept can overwhelm you. Faith can keep the terror at bay. Faith can overcome the shadows.” Like the great stone lion on the library steps, majestic head erect, a figure lies just inside the edge of the forest. He turns his eyes to mine.

“Aslan?” I cannot believe my eyes, my good fortune. “Aslan!” I run toward him, but just as I come close I see my own audacity and slow down.

“Come, child. I am here for you. Do not stop you feet for self-consciousness. Lose your preoccupation with yourself and come to me.” And so, I do. I run to his side and bury my hands deep in his mane and hug and hug and hug his great bulk, his great being. This is a joy I never dreamed could be my own. The warmth, the softness, the strength, the presence of the Lion in my own arms. Holy mystery. Holy joy. Wholly overwhelmed and filled am I.

3/2/95

[this soul story continues, here]

[First image is photo by Morgan C. Smith per cc 2.0; second image cropped from photo by Dennis Matheson per cc 2.0]

a joyful gambol

laughing faunThe oak outside my office window is a bridge to the meadow’s oak – to the land where my imagination plays. Outside my window, the branches are tangible, but they hold the intangible, offering it before me. I slide into my meadow and I am home.

I sit at the base of that tree. leaning back in a restful pose, grateful to have let down my load for a moment, suddenly conscious of how long it has been since I rested. I need your rest. No wonder my mind is stodgy and inept. I need re-creation. So, I release myself into your meadow, our meadow, and feel the delicious smoothness of your rest, your peace. I hear a melody of love, though the notes are not clear. I feel the caress of the breeze and almost, almost, drift off to sleep.

But suddenly I am snapped awake. The melody has become louder. It is joyful, sparkling, a march of quirky delights – of jokes and puns of gamboling fauns and fairies, of a Narnian circle under the stars, where all the animals meet on midsummer night to play in delight at the simple fact of creation.

There is much to delight in, in your creation. I find myself in the circle, right between two giggling young fauns who can barely stand. They are so excited to be here. They play upon their flutes from time to time, but laughter keeps them from adding much to the song. Never mind, there are plenty of singers. I feel a giggle rising in my chest. I feel the wrinkle of a smile upon my lips. It seems strange, to smile a real smile, to laugh with delight, to release myself to joy.

Too much responsibility.   I take it off like a coat and kick it – yes, I kick it aside.

Now, I am dressed in nothing but a thin summer dress, a breeze of a fabric that follows my dance as I begin to twirl. The fawns take a hand on ether side and dance me around almost tumbling over themselves in laughter and exuberance. We twirl and twirl until, exhausted, we fall onto the ground. An older faun gives one of the young ones a mockingly stern look, and then laughs, too.

Sudden there is a solemnness that overcomes the circle. It is not a sad solemnness, but a deeply joyful one. It quiets the laughter and spreads deep smiles and sighs through the crowd. Jesus himself has stepped into the middle of the circle. Not Aslan, but the Lord himself, in human form. He sits upon the hillside, leaning back so that he can look out at the crowd; look up at the sky. My two young fauns scramble over to sit as close to him as they can.

He smiles at them, and then begins to sing. He tilts his head back and sings. The tones rolling from his tongue repaint the sky, retouch the leaves, renew my heart. It is a jubilant, triumphant, invigorating song. When he is done, he looks straight at me. And smiles. Suddenly my own form is enriched, my own colors deepen, my own self becomes more real, more me, than I have been for a long time. He smiles again. He blows me a kiss and is gone. The whole scene is gone, but the colors remain in my heart. No longer gray am I. Life is returning with the sunrise. Color blooms.

Thank you.

Amen. amen. amen.

2/5/97

[image filtered from photo by ketrin1407 per cc 2.0]

Retroactive Wisdom

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. – James 1:5

boxes in the hall

I’m still overwhelmed. Even consistent meditation cannot extract me easily from over-obligation. I wonder if I can ask for wisdom, retroactively?

The foolishness I reel from today actually rolled out of my mouth nine months ago or more, when I said yes to too many projects. When my calendar pages looked so clean and clear. I forgot that they really, already, had obligations attached – like PTA meetings, and science fair projects, and a mother-in-law’s birthday, things that should carry the joy of relationship, but, in the context of too much, become one more burden that I might drop. Silly me, foolish me… to think that I might forget that I would be living day-to-day realities in even the unmarked calendar months ahead. Continue reading