Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Curious Sound

In C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a young boy named Edmund trudges miserably through the woods which have been frozen in always-winter-yet-never-Christmas by the White Witch's power. He, too, has been under her spell. But as he plods in servitude under the imperious eye of his mistress and her cruel dwarf's whip, he hears something that breaks through the monotony.

"There...seemed to be a curious noise all round them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf's shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what it was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn't go on at all. When that happened there was a moment's silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. A strange, sweet, rustling, chattering noise - and yet not so strange, for he'd heard it before - if only he could remember where!" Then all at once he did remember. It was the noise of running water. All round them though out of sight, there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realised that the frost was over."

This is one of the first great signs - not only of spring in Narnia, but also of the melting of icy hearts like Edmund's - or, like ours. We may not even recognize the noise of running water if it's been a very long time, but if it sweet to us even in its strangeness - this is the first hint that there's hope. Our heart gives a great leap, though we may not quite know why. Life is awakening from slumber deep down under year-laden layers of snow, and we sense things moving in spite of our still-heavy eyes. 

We were woken early from the literal winter-slumber this year quite suddenly. Several weeks ago, we threw a few things in a suitcase, dragged it laboriously through the snow and ice (this was before Minnesota's spell was broken), and hopped on a bus, a train, a plane - to another place. It was rather Narnia-like, stepping through a door into another world. I have never quite gotten over the magic of plane travel.

Our destination was the sunlit lands of San Diego. We arrived in the cool of evening, but the mere fact of being able to stand outdoors comfortably at the airport and watch palms gently giving in to light breezes - this was a revelation. Our shoulders, long hunched from chilliness, relaxed. Our faces felt the humidity and rejoiced. This was going to be good.

The next day, we were whisked to a little place in southern California called La Jolla,  stunning with its varied sea life, craggy coves, and vistas. The sunset by the end of the day was breathtaking, but the best part was that we spent most of our day inside of that landscape. We learned how to balance a paddle-board and then followed a friend over two miles out to sea into pods of dolphins, whiskery sea lions, bright garibaldi fish, and shadowy groups of leopard sharks shifting below. We decided that Sea World just might be a little bit of a let-down after all of that.

Despite the unfamiliarity of San Diego (what is that thing glinting in the sky - oh! Is that the sun?), we were greeted many times by the familiar faces of old friends. Here we were, in surroundings that were bright and and novel - but we were with dear people who have many times generously hosted us, broke bread with us, shared beauty with us, and provided us with much-needed rest and play. Here was a home where lemons grew in the backyard. Where I laid out silverware on the patio table for lunches. Where one could lay around and read, sleep, talk, cook, or - if so inclined - run out the back door, and straight onto a mountain.

One was so inclined. Winding suburban streets suddenly gave way to a gravel trail, which became "Black Mountain Trail" and I was off, ocean visible far in the distance. As a climbed higher and higher, I ran out of breath more easily, but I felt pushed on by something else - what was it? It was a curious feeling, one I hadn't felt in a while. It was energetic desire, leaping up like Edmund's curiosity, reminding me of beauty and the love of running and how fine God's creation looks when you open your eyes to it.

At that point, since it had been about a day since we'd been to the beach, so it was of course time to return. We basked in the incomparable luxury of time; walking the length of a beach while the sun slipped down, near a little town called Cardiff-on-the-Sea. This was the site of another sweet reunion and renewal of friendship. Good company, good food, good local wine. Just good. So much good. The sands were golden - almost too bright for our eyes.

Speaking of the bright, there is a certain savage beauty to the winter where we live, in the “tundra” as we call it with semi-fond chagrin. (Some of us more fondly than others, I recognize!) Having always been a lover of snow, ski, brisk, bright white-lovely days, I never have had the typical wintertime fly-me-to-a-beach reflex. It always felt a little bit like cheating myself out of seasons. However, this long year's trudge through frozen windshield wipers and frigid strings of subzero weeks wearied me in its sameness. It's always winter and only once Christmas (so long ago!). The monotone days were difficult to surmount.

This is perhaps why our adventure felt almost miraculous. The word that we could not stop using was "blessed." Every single day was a yes, an amen - even the rainy ones near the end were this way, full to the brim of glory, fun, and shimmer. Each experience was an opening of our eyes, ears, mouths, and hearts to another reality - of the warmed side of God's green earth. We may have been in a long season of waiting, but things are beginning to melt here back at home, too. The roar of San Diego's ocean waves still echo in my ears like a seashell, but I'm also starting to hear it underneath Minneapolis' lakes and rivers. I don't think it's my imagination. The spell is beginning to break, and my heart is on the verge of a great big leap...

1 comment:

Joyfulartist said...

Spring will come and summer on her shirt tails.