Well, I am still waiting for that annoying alarm clock tone to wake me up from this fantastic dream I’ve been living in for the past few months. Never would I have guessed that I would be here, living in C. S. Lewis’ house, walking through his Narnian forest of Shotover, reading first editions of his books, and meeting some of his scholars and even those who actually knew him and called him friend!
Even if it wasn’t too great a task already, it has become a simply hopeless one to pay God back for all the blessings He keeps heaping upon me. I find myself usually speechless, overwhelmed, and at a complete loss for how to respond adequately on days such as these.
I’ve started an attempt at jogging through Shotover in the mornings to counter my intake of all these wonderful English creams, cheeses, and pies. This morning I woke up early, groggily put on my running shoes, half-heartedly attempted to touch my toes, and then stepped outside The Kiln’s Tradesman entrance to a glorious sunshiny day full of birdsong.
As I made my way up the path through the C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve, I noted how different the forest looks each time I go through it, even at the same times of the day. There really is something magical about these woods. The sunlight filters differently through the leaves each day just like snowflakes are never quite the same as any other snowflake. There are two tall trees that stand guard on either side of the path just before you come to the top of the reserve and the kissing gate. I call them the Gatekeepers. Every time I walk between them, I feel a little thrill of excitement inside and wonder what treasures await me today.
This morning I found a tree-swing in a little alcove of the forest. I realize that I am nearly thirty and probably too old for things such as swings to give me such excitement, but I have never grown out of the exhilaration of flight that swinging gives. Dog walkers and fellow joggers were all out of sight for the moment, so I briskly hopped on and flew away. God did not give us wings to fly, but He did give us imaginations and the grand idea of swings!
I haven’t simply just jogged through the forest yet, and don’t intend to.
The ending of my day was just as pleasurable. Walter Hooper quoted C. S. Lewis, who was quoting Cervantes when he said that “comparisons are odious;” so please don’t think that I am attempting to compare my morning with my evening, for that would be impossible. It has just been one of those happy days that started well and ended in the same vein.
I was invited as the acting warden at The Kilns to join a few of the C. S. Lewis Society’s members for a dinner with Walter Hooper before his talk that night at the Society’s meeting at St. Pucy’s House. And the cherry on top of the already marvelous cake was that it was at a French restaurant. I’ve never tasted French cuisine and have always desired the chance to try this elevated genre of flavor. I was not disappointed on any count. The food was a delight and the conversation better (so much for odious comparisons!).
It has been my pleasure to have met and listened to Walter Hooper on two other occasions, and each time I have been enraptured by his stories and the charming way he puts you at your ease. There were six of us at the table; a middle aged English priest and scholar, three young American Oxford University Fellows, a warden (me), and Walter Hooper. Our ages and places in society covered quite a broad spectrum, and yet there were no barriers to our conversation.
It was lively and flowed in a myriad of directions. And the beauty of it all is that we have all been brought together because of the writings of C. S. Lewis and (most likely) his deep love for and great insight of God. Walter Hooper said “Jack” didn’t think anyone would read his books after he was gone. Wouldn’t he be surprised! For me, his writings stir something deep within me. They call to a longing. And he told such great stories.
I am so thankful for Walter Hooper and the colossal work he has done on keeping C. S. Lewis’ legacy and the dear intimate stories of him as a person alive for us.