Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle

You’ve probably seen by now that Madeleine L’Engle has died. Despite having been the kind of kid who could walk between classes with my nose in a book and never bump into anyone (I also became very quick at taking tests because we were free to read after we were done), I was never a big fan of A Wrinkle in Time. As a kid, I had a horror of stories where things turned into other things — Alice in Wonderland, for example. Perhaps it’s because I had the kind of life where 180s were all too common, where people disappeared for good, where chaos was too much the norm.
However, in my twenties, I stumbled across A Circle of Quiet the first of L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals. I devoured these four books, books that chronicled L’Engle’s marriage, motherhood, the death of her mother (who I’m shocked to find from the review on Amazon, was born during the Civil War — can you imagine? We’re still in some cases, only two generations away from the Civil War?) and most fascinating for me, the growth of her faith.

L’Engle was an Episcopalian, and for many many years she held a position at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. It’s been years since I’ve looked at any of these books, but I remember them vividly as a series that glowed like a beacon, gave me hope that perhaps it was actually possible to live a good life — to raise kids, write, build a marriage, and find some sort of faith that wasn’t blind, but was a faith that required all of one’s intellect.

I read these books in an old, broken-down farmhouse at the bottom of a holler in North Carolina. I had a room that opened onto the porch in a house I shared with three or four other people, and I was working as a raft guide for something like sixty bucks a week. I’d just fled New York City, and didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was going to do next with my life, and I’ll always be grateful to Madeleine L’Engle for giving me a kind of hope that somehow, if I followed my confused heart, and tried to live what my college Classics professor called “a virtuous life”, that somehow, I’d find a way to build a real life.

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