Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Going back to Narnia

I watched Shadowlands many years ago but there's a scene I have always remembered. C.S. Lewis is sitting in (what I figure to be) Magdalana College in their Great Hall. He's at a long table eating with all his colleagues. His book has just been printed and they start attacking it intellectually. Everything rolls along fine- they attack, he rebuffs, all college-y goodness till someone scoffs at the wardrobe scene. What is the wardrobe scene supposed to represent? Enlightment of the mind? They dilly-dally around a little more till C.S. Lewis grows short and he says, 'No, it's magic. That's all it is. Magic. Nothing else.'

And really, every time Lucy walks through the back of wardrobe, that's all I can think. Pure magic. And perhaps that's where C.S. Lewis was truly brilliant. He didn't dally around with symbolism on this. He knew what was true and stuck to his guns in front of his colleagues. 'Magic. That's all it is. Sheer magic. It just happens.'

And I'm wondering if this 'magic' is a trait common to all really good stories. Things just happen- they do and for no symbolic reason. They just happen one day.

Of course, I cling to this because I too want to walk into the world that lies behind the coats in the wardrobe. I too want to be staring at a painting and have it suddenly pull me in. And I too want to be sitting at a train station and suddenly get sucked into Narnia. It's magic. Nothing else. It just happens.

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A Tale of Two Worlds

I walk past a window on my way to get a glass of water and note the snow falling outside.  As I fill my glass at the sink, my thoughts have already turned back to my work on the computer. I’m wrestling with the household budget, when I’ll fit some reading in, how to get on with my writing work, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll catch up with email correspondence and the list goes on and on.

Anytime I stop my work and look up, past the chatter in my mind, the snow catches me off guard as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I debate whether I can put off the grocery store to avoid driving in the snow.

This is the world of the everyday. It’s full of a thousand petty cares, some essential to living, others not as much but all in a lump group, tugging us along.

But there are times my mind needs something more refreshing, and it’s time to take a break. And that’s where music comes in—as powerful as Circe creating a circle of magic with her staff. I pick out music without words (or words I don’t understand). Today is Rimsky-Korsakov, tomorrow might be the film Phantom Thread’s soundtrack, or a piece of jazz played by Lucky Thompson.

As Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden starts, the circle opens. I come out of the everyday world and enter somewhere extraordinary, where beauty converges with life and cares and worries exit for a time. And all it takes is a little music, a little snow, and entering the moment that is now.

I watch the snow falling, noting the wind direction as the snow blows southeast and then drops and then exhales again southwards. I note the density of the snow, how it’s light and sparkling and then downy, heavy, and wet.  My thoughts finally still and I turn off the music. A heavy relief passes over my body and mind and I am still, watching the beauty of the world.

The Fog Rises Up and We Come Down to Meet It

This winter has frozen and thawed. And then frozen and thawed once again. With the most recent exhale of cold, fog rises up from the melting ground and wraps my town in a trance.

It softens the ragged tops of trees and transforms the dead yellowed grass into a carpet spreading out into unseen lands.  With foggy foreshortened vision, the world becomes finite and in the smallness, my wonder grows.  Trees become gloomy gods, bushes hunch over like mysterious beings with secrets hidden in twiggy souls. The sky blurs out and the land rises up to meet it and everything is reformed or brought down to its most basic form. It is easy to become lost and confused.

I walk the perimeter of my neighborhood park. We become redone together.  The playground becomes enchanted, strangely unknowable as the slides and swings soften and distort.

The ballpark’s high chain link fence however, becomes more sure.  The metal darkens and braces and holds against the diffused white light.  I stare at it through my camera lens, delighted by its ferocity while everything else around it wavers and melts.

A train passes over the hill and I can see nothing, it has been whitened out, but I can hear the busy clack of the iron wheels running on steel rails.

Geese fly overhead for a minute and then vanish.

I press on and the mist parts as I walk and so we walk together, softened, softening with the night closing in behind our steps.  The night takes everything behind us, rebuilds it like it wishes and then I step into my home and close the door.

Rain falls a few hours later and the fog mounts up, gently pressing at the windows but by morning, it is all gone and only little bits of ice remain on the walkway.