Wren's Reviews > Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
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's review
Sep 09, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites
Read from September 09, 2010 to June 30, 2011

I've been reading Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art for about 10 months June 30th. When I finally finished the book, I felt more accomplished than anything. It's never taken me that long to get through a book before, and I thought about coming on here and pretending like I'd read it in a few sittings all within a few weeks of each other, but that threatens the authenticity of this post and dampens my ethos. Don't get the impression that just because it took me almost a year to read this book that it wasn't good (especially since it's only a little less than 200 pages). I started reading it in the throws of fall semester my junior year, and found myself crawling back to Madeleine's words whenever I needed a metaphorical shoulder on which to lay my head.

There is something about her writing - it exposes such wisdom, and she writes so assuredly that I can't help but to gulp down every word. Even if you don't agree with her ideas, you can at least agree on the fact that she believes in every word she writes, and because of that she comes off as a very trusting source. Reading this book is like listening to your grandmother instill on you her vast knowledge of the world. You may not agree with it (even though I agreed with everything), but you can at least respect her determined nature.

The day I finished the book, which was June 30th (I know this because I checked with Goodreads), I went back to her book with the goal of finishing it that day, and as I read the last several chapters, I felt a warmth permeate my skin. I realized then the thing I loved most about this book and the whole of Madeleine's mind was the comfort she gave me with her words. She spoke of gifts in her final chapter, and I couldn't help but think that she was a gift in herself, and even though she's no longer with us anymore, her words are, and so is an essence of her being - soul and heart. Her writing was so important to her, and I could feel that intimacy she held with her writing sink into my chest - it effected the way I breathed, it held my attention firmly in its grasp, it made me wish she were still alive and I could drive up to Crosswicks for visits on weekends.

Her whole idea that we are creators brought about this whole drawn-out thought process for me that lasted for days. I've been brewing ideas about what it means for us to be made in God's image, and Madeleine's book brought the answer to the forefront of my mind. God, The Creator, created us to be creators. Let me say that again - God, The Creator, created us to be creators. We have a commonality with Him - we can create. And while Madeleine's book is centered on creations of art, I found myself going further than that - further than paintings, sculptures, scores, stories, photographs, and so on. When a person merely walks into a room their existence alone creates an atmosphere. People are makers of their surroundings. God created earth, but people create buildings and shrines and so on - we design, we structure. We essentially make a space with our very presence. The man with the loud, heavy boots who strides swiftly across the lobby with his shoulders pulled back and a sour expression on his face may create a tension, and his tension creates apprehension in other people until the creation has reached everyone everyone else comes in contact with. It's a domino effect.

Since reading this book, the concept of space, place, and creation has swung me into this engrossing path of wonder - it has many valleys and straits, nooks and crannies, rivers and hillsides; it is a topic of extreme personal and creative interest for me now. I sat down at my parents' desk this past weekend and actually came up with an entire syllabus for a First Year English class for college students based on this book and two others that I've been wanting to read for a year now. Suddenly, off of this one book, I've felt catapulted into this new realm of purpose and possibility, something that could really help students get in touch with themselves so that they are better able to further their academics, careers, and lives. I imagined the director of the English department suggesting I repeat this syllabus for all introductory English courses, then getting asked to structure this syllabus into a lecture so I could visit other colleges, and then proposing the idea as a book.

In other words, my thoughts went wild and I felt insanely excited about this streamline of possibilities offered to me from this one book. Maybe I'm crazy, but I really think I'm on to something. If there was ever a reason for me to feel more sure about applying for the MFA program at my school, my experience reading this book and the ideas that followed it are the shove into that direction that I needed. I don't know if anything I daydreamed about would ever happen, but the least I can do is take a step in the right direction and start the application process for applying for the MFA. What makes this whole experience even better is that it feels like a special gift. I've never felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do, the direction I should go in terms of my career, until now. And when I think about it, there are so many avenues I traveled to get to this point.

I went to USC and I was lucky enough to get the same professor for ENGL 102 that I had for ENGL 101. She was amazing, and a gift to my career as a writer. It was in her ENGL 102 class that we had to read an excerpt of one of Madeleine's books, and I found myself so intrigued by her writing that I wanted to go out and get one of her books to read. It took me a while to do it, but I finally decided to purchase Walking on Water when I read a blog where yet another person raved about this book. But, my plans don't end with this book. There are several others I want to read concerning space and place that will only help further my ideas. I can see this turning into an entire research project, but I am totally okay with that, because for once in my life I'm excited about research, and I feel like I have a better handle on how to do it properly.

I absolutely cannot wait to get started on this. This is probably one of the most exciting things I've ever tried to do with my writing, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.

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Quotes Wren Liked

Madeleine L'Engle
“We don't want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don't want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

Madeleine L'Engle
“I love, therefore I am vulnerable.”
Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Madeleine L'Engle
“Art is communication.”
Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Reading Progress

03/01/2011 page 107
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