So here’s a funny thing: Last night, when I made my way up the jetway and into the airport here in Lincoln, Nebraska, I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I would have skipped across the threshold, except that I was so weary. I am so weary. Beneath the blue sign with white lettering that read, “Baggage Claim” with an arrow pointing off to the west, sat a security guard. He took his glasses off with one hand and rubbed his eyes with the other, in a way that suggested he may have been sitting at that post for the entire time it took our airplane pilot to transport us from Denver to the place I now call home. I tossed a friendly greeting over to the security guard and he responded in the way that makes visitors to Nebraska remark with incredulity, “Everyone is so nice!”
If you’ve been to Laity Lodge in Texas, you already know there is no place on earth quite like it. With its emerald blue waters and rocking chairs and Laity Lodge cookies and Santa Fe blend of coffee and midnight skies thick with diamonds, Laity Lodge takes your breath away. Then, once each year, add to that mix the incredible community of High Calling writers and editors and readers and cheerleaders and friends and thinkers and artists (all of whom are ordinary people with skin on), and the weekend comes alive with moments that make you wonder if you should simply have left your shoes on the conveyor belt with the TSA agents, rather than bothering to bring them with you to this place where fire lights up nearly every tree.
At Laity Lodge, Tim tells us we can go into the bookstore, take a book off the shelf, read the entire book from cover-to-cover, and then put that book right back on the shelf without purchasing it. So, I wander into the bookstore when no one else is there because bookstores are sanctuaries, too. My index finger finds the spine of “Walking on Water” and I let my finger hook itself over the very top edge of the spine to where the pages stack themselves up beside each other, all snug and friendly. I apply a small amount of pressure and I’m holding the book in my hand and when, on Saturday afternoon, I wake up from a four hour nap, I realize that book is calling my name. I give in to the book and its mystery and blame it on that nap, because naps aren’t in my repertoire.
Rain sounds like it’s falling from buckets suspended over the roof of the room where I sit with the book in my lap, a hot cup of tea on the window ledge beside me. The electricity goes out while I am reading the introduction and, in a place I may never see, a generator breathes itself to life. Filaments in the lightbulb in the floor lamp beside me bend themselves into particles of matter and I can see again. Already, Madeline is in my head. I know I won’t be putting this book back on the shelf. It is mine.
You will tell me you have read this book, and I know I’m late to the party on this one—descending the stairs without touching them, and all that jazz.
On Sunday, it takes me a long time to get home. It is one of those travel days where time folds over itself and tucks space inside like an envelope with a wax seal pressed into the fibers. On my first flight, when my introverted self wants to slide into the seam of the book and slip away through the closet door, my seat mate peeks to see the title of the book I’m reading, “It looked intellectual,” he’d tell me. He has read this book himself and he tells me his story, because what else do any of us really know to tell? He also tells me about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I know the name and can share it with you, only because I’ve written it in the book on my lap, on the very first page, across from the book’s jacket flap. I’ve written the name right beneath the name of Annie Dillard whose name my seat mate also lifts up for my consideration.
But I have been considering Annie for years.
I haven’t read anything Annie Dillard has written. But her name keeps landing in my lap through chance encounters like this one, in the air between San Antonio and Denver. Is there really such a thing as chance encounters? I wasn’t supposed to take this flight. I was scheduled for a much later trip. But, a restlessness that started in the canyon and grew in me while I read those pages as the rain fell down, compelled me to leave the canyon early and to add my name to the standby list. I never would have been on this plane if I hadn’t yielded to the invitation to do my own dance with time.
On the front page of my copy of Walking on Water (I purchased it before I left the canyon) Annie Dillard’s name is written beneath the name of Denise. And by Denise, I mean Denise Levertov, a poet. Ha! Poetry. Also not in my repertoire. But my seat mate has intrigued me with talk about The Annunciation and, after I am home and rested, I search for Denise. And her poem.
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness…
God waits. And we are free to accept or refuse.
You will tell me you have already fallen in love with poetry and you have turned Denise’s lines over in your head and heart for years. I have fallen for Langston Hughes and for rap music and for songs made up by children as they swing on swings and paint with watercolors. We are members of the same family, you and me.
So, I nearly skipped across the threshold when I found myself at home because the days stretch before me now. God has waited long enough and I’d like to exercise my freedom, here. I accept. I want God to come alive in me, too. I want Christ to grow in my gut. I want the Holy Spirit to fill and electrify this weary soul. I consent.
What restlessness is rising up in you today? If you consent to it, where will it take you?
A note: Madeline L’Engle was a frequent visitor to Laity Lodge. If you have forty minutes some lazy afternoon, click through to listen to her talk titled, Journey Into Writing.