Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A World of Radical Possibility

What is that? A church? I thought she promised to blog about her Writers 4 Writers lunch, and brag about the gang: Rebecca Stead, Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Winthrop and Lucy Frank? Instead we get church? Well folks, I'm sorry to disappoint, but there's nothing about our lunch I can really share with the world at large - but know that we sat there for hours and were loath to leave one another! (Daphne Grab and Carolyn Mackler were sorely missed.)

So yes, today's blog will be about the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where I work part-time as a tour guide and workshop leader for the education department. What does that have to do with a Lit.Life, you may well ask. St. John the Divine is the patron saint of writers for one, and for another, it is a place I will forever associate with my grandmother, who for forty years was the librarian and the writer-in-residence. I became involved with the Cathedral myself, volunteering to create a workshop for the education department based on A Wrinkle in Time. Later, I created a more generalized writing workshop. Last summer I thought, hmmmm . . . the money sure isn't raking in with my writing career, maybe I should work here. So I underwent training to become a tour guide, looking at the cathedral in a secular, educational way.

Today I had the insane pleasure of giving an architecture tour to my son's second grade class. My son was excited, the class was excited, and I was over the moon that my son still thinks I'm cool. I led them through the cathedral, explaining the mish-mash of architectural styles, Gothic and Romanesque, pointed arches vs. rounded arches, columns vs. piers. There were tech people around preparing for an event and at one point, the dark cathedral was flooded with light. A gasp came from a little girl in the class.

"Do miracles happen in this cathedral?" she asked.

"I love your question, Why do you ask?" I said, not knowing where this conversation would lead.

"Well, when the lights came on, it felt like a miracle." Wow. She blew me away.
I didn't have an answer, but I riffed off of her.

"Yes! Often it depends on what you believe and how you choose to see things. I think people who come here, regardless of religion, want to believe in miracles in this beautiful space. So they see them."

"I felt one," the girl corrected me.

All I could do is nod, and ponder her Yoda-like response.

The other kids seemed satisfied with this answer, and I went on to talk about how the building is structured, with an emphasis on flying buttresses, getting the prerequisite giggles.

But I kept thinking about the girl's question and her certainty in feeling. This theme also comes up in EDGES, as it is something that is always hovering about my consciousness: what we believe and how we cope. As a writer, I value child-like curiosity, I strive for the openness to see and to listen to the characters and their story. And as a grown-up, maybe I strive too hard to see, and not to feel. I too long for a sense of the miraculous, and want to live in a world of radical possibility.


  1. Terrific post, Lena. We should all be so lucky as to experience the world as a child...full of miracles and wonder!

  2. love that question and your answers! and wish i had been able to make lunch :-(

  3. Focusing on that moment has brightened my day - and the fact that you two liked my post!

  4. That was my favorite part of EDGES -- how it made me consider the different ways of looking at the world (as you already know)!

  5. I love that little she-Yoda--how wonderful. She felt it.

    I have a divination tool I like to use called "Goddess Guide Me." Within it, there's an affirmation that goes: "I embrace sudden, positive, radical change." I've used this affirmation as part of some powerful healing experiences in my life, and your post reminded me of it.

    Perhaps radical possibility can be as simple as declaring it to be so. Thank you for this, lovely Lena!

  6. Courtney and Jen - thank you for helping me start my day feeling affirmed!

  7. Lena, this was a lovely post-enjoyed it to the max. You are lucky to have such a great job-besides writing. I would love to do that...but alas, I am in the Midwest!

    I had no idea St. John the Divine was patron of writers. Hum, would this be true of Catholic beliefs too? I must check into this. And question: I notice chairs in the church and no kneelers. Why? Most Episcopal churches I know are like Catholic and have pews and kneelers. I guess I think I am on one of your tours!

    One more question, when do you think we can preorder your book on Amazon?

    For the first time since October I saw the best sun and felt warmth from its rays.I have hope for spring!

  8. Oh yes, the sun! A taste of spring! We have had some in NYC as well . . . I'm glad you liked my post! The cathedral has chairs instead of pews so that it can be a flexible space! I love the community center aspect of it!

    My guess is that you will be able to pre-order EDGES from Amazon in late summer/early fall . . . I will let you know for sure!

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