Posts Tagged ‘Madeleine L’Engle’

In fine whack

January 27, 2021 @ 9:20 am | Filed under: ,

When you mention A Ring of Endless Light in a post, naturally you check for dolphins among your photos. Here’s Beanie making a friend in 2008.

My morning routine has been a bit out of whack lately, and I’m trying to get it back in what an etymological site tells me is the opposite: in fine whack, meaning the same as in fine fettle.

There seems to have been a phrase in fine whack during that century, meaning that something was in good condition or excellent fettle. (It appears in a letter by John Hay, President Lincoln’s amanuensis, dated August 1863, which describes the President: “The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen him more serene and busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once”.) It doesn’t often turn up in writing, though, so there’s some doubt how widespread it was.

And now I’m trying to remember which Madeleine L’Engle book discusses the word amanuensis—I’m hearing a small boy saying it; he’s proud to be someone’s amanuensis, a literary or artistic assistant; which means it’s either Rob Austin or Charles Wallace Murry. Hmm, no, neither seems right, although in my memory there was an element of precociousness in the character’s use of the word. I reread A Ring of Endless Light for the umpteenth time last year—always my favorite L’Engle novel—so that’s probably where I’m recalling it from. But would it have been Rob? Was Adam Jed’s amanuensis? Sort of?

Well, this digression is indicative of the way I sometimes allow my morning routine to skitter off course. I have a no-screens rule for the first hour minutes, and then I allow myself to open the laptop for an hour or more of writing time. I’ve been trying to keep to a strict one-tab-at-a-time habit, but a rabbit trail like the one above has generated three extra tabs and a jaunt to the library website to see if A Ring of Endless Light was available in ebook. It was! But my search for amanuensis in the text revealed zero hits. Hmm. My brain will keep poking this question until I find the answer. Watch me: I’ll wind up rereading all of L’Engle to find the quote!

Currently reading

December 5, 2017 @ 9:52 am | Filed under:

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart. Who was it who just mentioned this lovely novel somewhere? Lesley, was it you? It certainly has a Wild Simplicity flavor…Gilly’s lonely childhood and her godmother’s store of nature lore and mystery put me in mind of Wise Child, which is praise of the highest order. I’m only a few chapters in; Gilly (now in her twenties) has just arrived at the old house in the woods that is to be hers. I’ve not even set foot through the door yet.

A good house, deep in the woods, with a garden all around it and a river flowing past it. Fruit trees, and flowers planted for the bees. A place to grow my herbs. Silence in winter, and in summer nothing but the birds…”

See what I mean? You might expect Juniper to come round the corner of the house at any minute. Also it’s impossible not to hear in that passage an echo of my favorite poem. Geillis’s house might not be of clay and wattles made, but certainly midnight’s all a glimmer there,

…and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

Have to dash off to Salem for the day. One day, peace may come dropping slow into my life, but this is not that day. 😉


Heads up: Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season is $1.99 on Kindle right now. This is the only one of her Crosswicks Journals I haven’t read yet. A Circle of Quiet is one of my ’Portant Books (to adapt a long-ago Beanism).

 

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Today is the Feast of St. Patrick

March 17, 2005 @ 9:43 am | Filed under:

I love the ancient prayer known as the Breastplate of St. Patrick. Here is an excerpt:

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The brightness of the Sun,
The whiteness of Snow,
The splendor of Fire,
The speed of Lightning,
The swiftness of the Wind,
The depth of the Sea,
The stability of the Earth,
The firmness of Rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to pilot me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to guide me,
God’s Eye to look before me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to speak for me,
God’s Hand to guard me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me.

I will never forget the chill that went up my spine the first time I, as an adult, came across this prayer. It called up an immediate echo from one of my favorite books as a teenager: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. The first stanza, above, is the substance of the “rune” quoted by Calvin’s mother and later used by Charles Wallace. I haven’t read the novel in some twenty years, but I can still remember part of that powerful poem: “In this fateful hour/ I call upon all heaven with its power,/ The sun with its brightness,/The snow with its whiteness,/The lightning with its rapid wrath,/The fire with all the strength it hath…” I can almost recall the rest. At the end there is, I think, “the rocks with their starkness;/ All this I place,/ with God’s almighty help and grace,/ Between myself and the powers of darkness.”

I am sixteen again, shivering at the majesty and faith in those words.