Note: Less a review and more of a reflection. Much thanks to an unknowing Bruce Edwards, who wrote a much more informed and coherent Lewis dialogue here, from which this piece gets its inspiration. Happy New Year to all!
The roar of laughter rang from the small cabin as I tramped into the forest clearing, stamping my feet for warmth. The windows were lit from the dancing light of a roaring fire in the hearth. Smoke wafted from the chimney, as if the house itself were enjoying a pipe along with the inhabitants inside. My fear of freezing overtook my shyness, and I knocked on the door.
A balding man in a worn tweed jacket, smoking a Woodbine, answered. His face lit up with assumed recognizance, competing in welcomed warmth with the fire within, and he boomed a glad tiding:
“Hullo there, Mr. Pyne- er, Wanderingtree. We’ve been having a lovely soak in your forest these past few days. Come in, and pull up a chair, for heaven’s sake, you’ll freeze out there. You know, at least know about, Tollers, Charles, and Warnie, I take it?”
“I do, sir.”
“Mr. Lewis, for now, I think. Sorry. It’s been a hell of a walk.”
“The road is always long and hard, when you don’t stop for rest and perspective,” Tolkien muttered through the pipe in his mouth. He turned back to Charles Williams and continued his discourse with him.
Lewis took my arm and steered me toward an armchair. He smiled knowingly. “Been immersed in my books and still not taking the hint, eh?”
“I suppose. I mean, what a terrific year, though.”
“Rowan, yes. Rowan William Pyne, born April 23rd. Holy Saturday, in fact.”
“Congratulations. And the girl.”
“Isabelle! Yes, my niece was just born a few weeks ago on December 7th.”
“Wife, house, and job.”
“All present and accounted for. No complaints, really.”
“And yet,” Here Lewis looked me dead in the eye.
I faltered. What word really summed it up for me, both in spite of and also incorporating the blessings I’ve received this year?
“Er, rushed. Yes, rushed. I feel I’ve rushed past everything. People, places. I can’t remember all of it, really. Stopped writing the blog for a while. Been reading like a fiend, however.”
The room was warm. I removed my sweatshirt, tossing it onto the empty dining room chair on which Lewis had flung my jacket. Lewis took this moment to light another cigarette. Laughter and the pouring of ales from casks into heavy tankards by Williams and Tolkien. Lewis took two and gave one to me, taking a long pull at his own. He smacked his lips.
“Yes, and I do appreciated the attention to my books- by the by, more MacDonald in your diet, I think, but I do like this man Brian Jacques. Coarse and gentle at the same time, like a swaggering pirate bending down to pet a puppy. Been meaning to have a pint with him since he has arrived. But to the point, of course: down with my pen, and up with your own. ‘Ink is the great cure for all human ills’ I think I said long ago, with some naiveté but some truth as well. What stopped you?
“Balderdash and rubbish, my boy!”
“Well, then, not enough time to…”
“Equal parts trash and buffoonery! Didn’t my demon Screwtape teach you anything in his wicked way? ‘Humans live in time…therefore…attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to…the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity…in it alone freedom and actuality are offered.’”
“So when I rush past things and don’t stop to value or appreciate…”
“Then you live in the Future, that thing ‘least like eternity. Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.’”
“Let me guess: Christmas slipped away from you this year almost as if it never occurred? Even though you were with family?”
“How did you know?”
“The Incarnation remained in the manger. You kept chasing the star. Poor show, my friend, it needs to stop.”
“New Year’s resolution time, then?” I asked jokingly.
Lewis grimaced. “Every morning,” he said, “and not with the morose face of the perpetual penitent. He offers the morning star, you know. And the repair, if you let it, is always constant.”
I leaned back and stared into the fire, which had started to burn low, with idle, comfortable clicks, snaps and sparks. Williams and Tolkien still conversed animatedly, with Lewis now joining their laughter. Snow fell into view from the window, framed by the dancing lights and shadows of the room. More people entered the cabin, more than I thought possible- new friends and old, family living and dead. Hugs, cries of greeting, and glasses filled and raised. A call for a game, where followed jocular competition. The beginnings of a poorly sung song. More laughter.
I took a deep breath. Then another. Lewis beamed.
“More of that next year, my boy, understand? Well, good New Year to you.”
To you too, Jack.