At the Beach on Christmas Eve

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Christmas Angel seen at Newport Beach, CA December 24, 2019

 

On Christmas Eve love is clothed with visible vestments, with gifts and written words, with holly-wreaths and flowers and candles. The love that through the year is silenced by ‘busy-ness” is expressed in terms of tangible beauty. Christmas Eve is the Ceremonial of Gifts, of gifts that are given to explain something which the heart cannot say.
Ceremonials of Common Days

 

Happy Christmas Eve from my part of the world where we tended to the Ceremonial of the Christmas Eve Beach Walk, when this year a stunning display of cloud angels reminded us of the magic of the season. And we shared a beach connection with the often illusive, Osprey. Both Gifts that “explain something which the heart cannot say.”

Merry Christmas to All!

 

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One Angel fully formed, one forming and one about to form.

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Can you spot the Osprey in the middle of the photo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A fine display all along the coast.

 

 

 

 

The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia), C.S. Lewis (1955)

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.” Aslan

And the longer and more beautiful the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring….And when the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl. And when the Beasts spoke in answer, he heard only barkings, growlings, bayings, and howlings.

magiciansnephewI read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (LWW) a few years ago. I liked it and knew I would read the other books in the series. I didn’t know there is, what we would call a prequel, until I struck up a conversation with a woman in a bookstore who is an avid Narnia fan. Apparently, after Lewis published the LWW a friend asked him about the lamppost that appeared out of nowhere and in order to clear that up he wrote The Magician’s Nephew (MN). So does this mean the MN is really the first book? When I looked this up, I found Lewis scholars from the 1950s with various opinions that plague newer scholars and fans alike to this day. Chronological order (Lewis’s preference) puts the MN first. Published order puts it 6th or before the Last Battle the last released title. Being that the MN shows not only the origin of the lamppost, but the creation of Narnia by Aslan and how evil enters the Kingdom of Narnia, I believe chronological order is best. But I am only two books in; not the best authority.

I have to admit though, half way through I was very disappointed in the story. I found it dull, the magic not particularly, well, magical. Digory and Polly, neighbor children who are thrust into the void by the power of the magic rings invented by Digory’s Uncle Andrew land in a world made up of innumerable ponds and woods. Even the world that unleashes the Witch and the evil brought to Narnia did not hold my interest. Only the desire that I read all the titles forced me to continue. And then suddenly, Aslan appears and the book takes a most promising turn.

This world has a hopefulness the other worlds did not. It is a new world without flora or fauna, but that changes as a magnificent and glorious sound pierces the air and the children realize Creation is being sung into being before their very eyes!

There were no words. There was hardly even a tune….It was so beautiful he [Digory] could hardly bear it…Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count….The second wonder was that the blackness overhead all at once, was blazing with stars….a thousand points of light leaped out—single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world….If you had seen and heard it, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing….The Voice rose and rose till all the air was shaking with it; the sun rose. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up….the earth was of many colors; they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else. It was a Lion and stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song….

These passages and the ones that speak about the creation of the animals and other two-legged beings, are the kinds of magic that moves me. Creation being formed out of Song and love and beauty by a Lion who is at once Creator and Sacrifice (LWW). Because, yes, one cannot but help to see that connection. Aslan is birthing the world through the sound of his Voice, bringing forth the first plants, the new starry heavens, the sun and wind and all the animals, birds and beings that will populate this new world.

Out of the trees wild people stepped forth, gods and goddesses of the wood; with them came Fauns and Satyrs and Dwarfs. Out of the river rose the river god with his Naiad daughters. And all these and all the beasts and birds in their different voices, low or high or thick or clear, replied. “Hail, Aslan. We hear and obey. We are awake. We love. We think. We speak. We know.

Aslan tells the animals and other sacred beings to guard and protect the land because evil has been let loose. The Witch followed Digory and Polly into Narnia, but for now she is headed for lands far away and won’t trouble Narnia for hundreds of years. In the meantime Narnia must be made strong. Aslan sends the children on a journey to find the fruit of a special apple tree that once planted in Narnia will reign over it against all evil. When they return Aslan tells Digory to throw the apple a certain distance and it settles into the soft mud. In the morning the tree is big and filled with fruit. Digory is certain an apple from this tree will help his mother’s cancer and Aslan gives him one to take home.

When Digory and Polly return to London, Digory’s mother eats the apple and is cured. Digory plants the core and a tree grows again overnight. As the years pass and the children grow up so does the tree which has a symbiotic relationship with the one of its origin: it wiggles a bit on days when it is windy in Narnia, even when there is no wind in London. But its shaking has weakened its roots, and one wind-filled day in London the tree topples over. Now middle aged and with unfaded memories of Aslan and Narnia and all he saw there, Digory cannot just chop up the tree for fire wood. So he takes part of the tree and builds a wardrobe which he puts in his house in the country….

The passages of Narnia’s creation, vocalizing it into Being, the animals talking to one another and back and forth with the children tick many of my fantasy-girl and spirituality boxes. I am so glad I stuck with this book. And I further learned I wasn’t so far off the mark when I wanted to set the book aside, because the arguments of Lewis scholars who say the books should be read as released, instead of chronologically with MN to be read first, stems partly from the fact that this IS a dull book up until Aslan’s entrance and children (and adults?) might be turned off by the dull first half and not want to read any further.

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My Edition
Title: The Magician’s Nephew
Author: C.S. Lewis
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Device: Paperback
Year: 1955
Pages: 221
Summary

#WitchWeekECBR-Two Books: Ray Bradbury, Kelly Barnhill

I am a little late in talking about these books that I read for Witch Week hosted by Lory at Emerald City Book Review, but I wanted to make some quick notes. The first is the classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and the second is a new title by Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

 

My Edition:somethingwicked
Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: William Morrow
Device: Hard cover
Year: 1962
Pages: 293
For a plot summary

 

In this classic by Bradbury two best friends, the almost 14-year olds Will and Jim, spend a horror-filled weekend together trying to get away from a hellish carnival. Told in a lyrical, almost poetic style that I really wanted to appreciate, I have to admit I was confused by it. I had to constantly reread and frankly, if I had not committed to this book  for Witch Week, I think I would have ditched it soon after starting!

But I persevered and discovered my confusion worked. My confusion was the boys’ confusion. Is Mr. Cooger really dead in the electric chair? And that little girl under the tree was Miss Foley their teacher who by nasty magic regressed in age? And whoever thought a hot air balloon could be so sinister as to hold a witch who was looking for fresh meat? And the Illustrated Man, I mean Mr. Dark, what was he and was he really going to take the boys into the carnival for ever and ever like some marionette doll?

One thing this style of writing did for me was to cast a spell over my imagination and force me to see a world of dimness and blurred vision. All the action happened at the edge of darkness, in fact, I don’t think the sun ever came out and coupled with a storm approaching and plenty of the action happening at night, I just felt weighted down.

The brightest spot for me was Mr. Halloway, Will’s father and the town’s night librarian, who has spent decades among historians and philosophers in his private realm of books. He is really the hero of the story, not just as the boys’ physical savior, but also as a voice for speaking your heart and emotion in the way he opened up to them about life. “Who are you?” both father and son asked and answered to the best of their ability. This ordeal surely strengthened their bond.

And finally, I really appreciated that the resolution to the horror carnival was to share love and joy. That because the carnival fed on the sorrows and disappointments of people, the cure was to be happy. Charles Halloway discovered this when he fought off the witch. What a comical scene: the evil old witch wiggling her hand in the air to slow his heart to a stop, while he is feeling it as tickles on his chest and cannot contain his laughter which in turn blows her out the door!

And I suppose that is about as good a resolution as they come because the alternative, to meet violence with violence, is always temporary.

 

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My Edition:drankmoon
Title: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Device: Hard cover
Year: 2016
Pages: 388
For a plot summary

 

 

This is a beautifully told story of magic and witches, love and community…and a very big misunderstanding.

For centuries, each year the people of the Protectorate give up the youngest child among the families to the witch who lives in the forest as an appeasement against her doing anything terrible to the town. The ritual is performed with much solemnity, with only occasional protest from the parents, such is the belief in the efficacy of the sacrifice. On this particular day, however, the mother will not let her little daughter be taken and she is ripped from her arms. The ritual goes on as planned and the baby is left on the stone for the witch to take. After the procession leaves and as she has done every year for 500 years Xan, the witch, snatches up the infant and carries it by broomstick to loving families across the forest to the Free Cities.

Xan has never understood why this village leaves an infant to die, but is happy to deliver it to families who love children. However, this year she has become very attached to her charge and begins to take the longer route in order to spend more time with her, alternately nourishing the baby with goat’s milk and starlight as is normal. But she has become so distracted with thoughts of keeping this one that she doesn’t see that the moon has come out when she raises her hand to the stars and draws down moonlight instead, filling the baby with great magic.

The story progresses with the child Luna growing up under Xan’s tutelage, the magical creatures she plays and learns with and the mission to find her mother. Meanwhile, in the Protectorate, a young man whose child is next to be taken, decides he must end this practice and sets out to kill the witch. The misunderstanding is resolved, but not before tragedy and evil takes its toll.

This is a beautifully written book with characters both magical and human that are unforgettable. Barnhill handles tension and conflict well, and writes an easy flowing prose. Though this is a book for middle schoolers, as an adult I found it a very enjoyable read. The only weaknesses in the book are due to this age difference, I believe, as I would have liked more depth to the characters.

Oh, and I must mention the cover. It is exquisite. Here is a larger view.
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