long loved

‘There are dragons in the vegetable garden.
… or there were. They’ve moved to the north pasture now.’

Meg, not replying — it did not do to answer Charles Wallace too quickly when he said something odd — returned to the refrigerator. ‘I suppose I’ll have lettuce and tomato as usual…’

Some books you read once, and some books you read all your life. The book you’ve just begun — for those of you lucky enough not to recognize it — is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wind in The Door. I have been reading it since I was 11, every few years, over and over again.

Madeline L’Engle is much loved in the States, but hardly known in Britain. She died last week, and her obituary in the New York Times reminded me that she was one of my earliest religious guides, and certainly my first Piskie guide. In A Wind in the Door, strange and unusual children work with an irascible angel to fight against all that would destroy life. Progo always was my favourite.

Here are a few random offerings — to remind you of old friends, or to tempt you to new adventures.

chapter 2

…Then Charles Wallace cried ‘my dragons!’
They turned around, and they saw, there by the great rock —
wings, it seemed like hundreds of wings, spreading, folding, stretching —
and eyes
how many eyes can a drive of dragons have?
and small jets of flame
Suddenly a voice called to them… ‘Do not be afraid.’

‘Do not be afraid… He won’t hurt you.’

He?
Yes, Charles Wallace’s drive of dragons was a single creature, although Meg was not at all surprised that Charles Wallace had confused this fierce, wild being with dragons. She had the feeling that she never saw all of it at once, and which of all the eyes could she meet?

The Teacher said, ‘His name is Proginoskes’
Charles Wallace said, ‘ He?’

‘Yes.’
‘He’s not dragons?’
‘He’s a cherubim.’

‘What?’

‘A cherubim.’
Flame spurted skyward in indignation at the doubt in the atmosphere.

chapter 4 (the next day)

[Meg] crossed the orchard, climbed the wall again… and ran across the north pasture… There was nothing there except the mist whirling gently…

So it had all been a dream.

Then the mist seemed to solidify, to become moving wings, eyes opening and shutting, tiny flickers of fire…
‘You’re real,’ she said loudly, ‘you’re not something I dreamed after all.’
Proginoskes delicately stretched one huge wing skywards, then folded it. ‘I have been told that human beings seldom dream about cherubim. Thank you for being prompt. It is in the nature of cherubim to dislike tardiness.’

Meg sighed, in resignation, in fear, and surprisingly, in relief. ‘Okay, Progo, I guess you’re not a figment of my imagination. What do we do now? I’ve got just about an hour before breakfast.’

‘Much can be accomplished in an hour. We have to find out what our first ordeal is.’

‘You don’t know?’
‘Why would I know?’

‘You’re a cherubim.’
‘Even a cherubim has limits.’

The cherubim continued waving and thinking…’If you’ve been assigned to me, I suppose you must be some kind of Namer, too, even if a primitive one.’
‘A what?’

‘A Namer. For instance, the last time I was with a Teacher… my assignment was to memorize the names of the stars.’
‘Which stars?’

‘All of them.’

‘When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’…
‘How do I make you feel?’…

‘Confused.’

Several puffs of smoke went up.

Madeline L’Engle
A Wind in the Door

11 thoughts on “long loved

  1. She will always be one of my favorite authors. And my first real retreat was one she led at St. Mary’s Convent in Peekskill NY back in the 80’s, so I have her to thank for heading me in that direction as well. I still don’t know whether I like her novels (adult or youth) or non-fiction better. Or some of her poetry. It all contains so much truth. I’m sad to know there will be no new books from her. What a loss.

    Kimberly, thanks for posting that.

  2. I’d like to read this! Strange, though – subconsciously I always thought of the word “cherubim” as plural. Was I thinking of …. cherubs?

  3. Charles Wallace has the same confusion.

    Progo says ‘I’m practically plural. You thought I was a drive of dragons,’ and goes on to explain that he is a singular cherubim.

  4. Quite right Kelvin. I had taken it for granted that we knew the declension of cherub (s.) — cherubim (pl.) and was offering the narrative context.

    I suspect it’s worrying that I take such things for granted, but I do.

    Now, had any of you pointed out that the description of Proginoskes owed as much to ophanim as cherubim, we might have been on to something.

  5. Would I be right in recalling that we should actually say something more like ‘achruv’ and achruvime’ ? I have a very very poor memory for these things, but as I recall a Scots accent helped a lot!

  6. I read The young unicorns and A wrinkle in time in 1972, the latter because a friend’s child had been reading it. For 30 years I never saw another Madeleine l’Engle book, and then found A wind in the door in a shortlived bookshop that sold only remaindered books. I nearly missed it, because the author’s name was printed sideways.

    I’d love to be able to read some of her other books, but they are very hard to get.

  7. I’ve read and reread many of her books over many years.. mostly the children’s ones but a number of her adult fiction ones as well.

    They aren’t kept regularly in print in the UK, (apart from a Wrinkle in Time) which is sad, but means I’ve still got some delights to come that I’ve not managed to track down yet!

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