Day 7: The Writers
I'm walking down a road. I have been for as long as I can remember. And there have always been guides, friends, mentors and gurus taking me by the hand and stepping just ahead of me, illuminating the way forward with their encouragements, stories, and snippets of sage advice. They make straight and clear my paths, and keep me on them when otherwise I certainly would have fallen away. They save and shape me, over and over again. They lead me to the destination, to humanity, to Truth.
They are the Writers.
More than a decade ago: I am some way back down the road. This is where things start for the most part. Here I meet Clive Staples, all tweed and old book smell. Professorly, long in years and sharp but patient as he walks with me, ambles, pointing to the scenery. At the end of his finger colors become brighter, fantastic, lilies and snapdragons bloom as if both in season and trees come to life, dancing with the spirits of the forest. The world is suddenly and impossibly beautiful, and I see lurking behind some of the rocks and branches two flashing yellow eyes and a streak of gold mane.
We walk together for a time, for years or moments or neither or both, and he hands me off to a chubby teen from Texas, son of a single mom, brother to one sister, like me. He introduces himself as Don, and we joke together, laugh at the world as if it really is as goofy and absurd as we hope it to be. We drive an old Volkswagen van through the American west, stopping at the Grand Canyon to camp at the bottom, watching stars swirl through the blue like jazz. We whisper about fathers, about God, beauty, love, and mostly, stories. The van gets us as far as Portland before puttering to a stop just outside a coffee shop where we talk faith and politics with a beat poet on his way to a protest. He speaks of Jesus like an old friend and I can't help but think of a lion.
At the protest Don introduces me to Annie, everyone's favorite eccentric, liberal old auntie. She tugs at my arm and leads me through the streets of San Francisco, both of us dancing like Gypsies to the sound of an old Gospel choir, twirling and spinning, not forgetting the pain of the past, of those lost but dancing with a limp, because the alternative is the crawl up and die and that simply will not do. I spin so fast and long I start to see birds, and I count them, bird by bird.
I finally come to a stop, breathless, beside a brook. There I find an older woman in a long, flowing earthtone dress sitting on a rock, Retriever at her feet. She invites me to sit beside her and tells me about the ontology of things, of their being. She reminds me how stories are true, even when not literally so. "Literally," she laughs, "what an ugly word. I take truth far too seriously to take it literally." She explains to me the truth of cosmic adventure, of dragons, angels, planets and unicorns dancing with mitochondria, the micro and the macro all turning together to the ringing harmony of the spheres. She tells me of God's time, of His kairos, and reminds me to pray, even gives me words to pray:
"Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me."
I most begrudgingly leave Madeleine, as I've come to know her, my own spiritual grandmother. But before long I spot a woman of about thirty, all smiles, sitting on the corner of her roof with a shawl covering her head. She introduces herself as Rachel and tells me about the Bible, about women, about injustice and unfairness and finally joins in the chorus of voices praising beauty and truth at every stop along my quest. Rachel advises me not to drag others along on my own journey, but to follow Jesus down every slippery slope, and finally encourages me to write.
Like a... writer. Like one of the writers. As if I may one day be one of the writers, greeting the lost little boy as he steps onto the long, hard road.