The freedom of the trail
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Madeleine L'Engle on writing and courage

Morning coffee 1

"It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand."

 - Madeleine L'Engle (Crosswicks Journal 3: The Summer of the Great-Grandmother)

Morning coffee 2

"If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing. I'm glad I made this decision in a moment of failure. It's easy to say you're a writer when things are going well. When the decision is made in the abyss, then it is quite clear that it is not one's own decision at all."

- Madeleine L'Engle (Crosswicks Journal 1: A Circle of Quiet)

"I write for the child in everybody, that part of us that is aware and open and courageous. It's also that part of us that isn't afraid to explore the mythical depths, that vast part of ourselves we know little about and which we often fear because we can't manipulate or control it. That's where art is born."

 - Madeleine L'Engle (Crosswicks Journal 3: The Irrational Season)


:-) L-) L-)

Thank you for this, Terri. A Wrinkle in Time was an important book to me as a child. As with C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, I didn't recognize the Christian subtext in A Wrinkle in Time until I was older so I wasn't distracted by it as a child, I just immersed myself in the story and read it again and again. As the daughter of scientists, I completely identified with Meg.

And thank you for the three different links from L'Engle's name. I didn't know about the Leonard Marcus book, which I must certainly read.

Dog As Virgil

"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita"--Dante's Inferno

Halfway along life's path,
halfway up the slope,
the black dog leads you on.
White birches shake and bend
to the wind's will,
that merely tangles your hair.
Oak and ash and thorn
mark the pilgrim's way.
You leave no footprints
but flowers springing up
where you stride,
but your presence is always felt.
Both Dante and Beatrice,
you follow the black dog,
who never fails you,
bringing you past
nettle and dock leaves,
to the safety of home.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Stuart said:


'Argos, patient-hearted Odysseus'dog....
wagged his tail, and laid both his ears back' Homer's Odyssey. book XVII lines 292 and 302.

After the city fell
The Fates set you adrift
On a journey
That wrecked ships,
Lost crews,
And plunged you into
The wine-dark seas
That conspired
To keep you from home.

Then at last,
Your way-weary steps
Led you to gates
That once you knew well.

But a brace of long decades
Had passed,
And none knew your face
But for your dog,
Great Argos,
So ancient of days
He hadn't the strength
Left in his limbs
To stand.
But he greeted you
By dropping his ears
And wagging his tail
And sending you on
To string the great bow
That none had been able to draw
But you.

The quiver is full.

The targets stand ready...

Forgot to say, Jane. Love your poem and the classical link; so much so it inspired me to write a reply based on one of my favourite bits of the odyssey.

Love the way the two poems play upon one another, and especially love your last line.


Love all the poetry! Amazing.

The first quote is especially relevant for me at the moment, thank you Terri.

I also found a wonderful transcript of a talk Madeleine L'Engle did at the Library of Congress in the mid-80s here:

A great read on creativity.

If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing."

THIS is what I learned and it made such a difference in my life. I knew I would write, no matter what.

Great post. Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Dear Terri,

In response to the wonderful poetry from Jane and Stuart, I have a slightly eccentric contribution.

Here it is as it came to me:

Omaggio a Tilly – un cane classico.

Ecco la Musa!
E senza le corna, perche in tanto la Scozia resta lontana.
Ecco la Musa!
Ma……Dov’e’ andata? Sparita? Di gia’!
Ecco la Musa!
E dov’e’ sparita? Nella selva oscura?
Si, per seguire il cane Virgilio,
cugino cucciolo di Argo antico,
precursore di Tilly,
la piu’ bella e grande
la piu’ grande e bella
che danza la vita
com’e’ la tarantella!

And here is the translation (it really loses a lot!)

Homage to Tilly - a classical dog.

Here's the Muse!
And without horns, after all Scotland is far away*
Here's the Muse!
But...where's she gone? Disappeared? No kidding!
Here's the Muse!
And where's she disappeared to? Into the dark forest?
Yes, to follow the dog Virgil,
Puppy-cousin of ancient Argo,
Forerunner of Tilly,
The most beautiful and best,
The best and most beautiful,
Who dances life
As a tarantella!

*this is a play on words (the Italian for bagpipes is 'cornamusa' and horns are 'le corna' and figuratively signify...well it doesn't make sense in English.

Given that, I just recited it onto YouTube. Here's a link (it's unlisted so it's just for those here and only accessible via this link)

It's intended to bring a little levity into your difficult time. And honour Tilly, who surely is 'la Musa' of many.



Tilly: "There's the cup and theres the coffee. And the journal. Where's my pen?"

Oh, and how beautifully Tilly is celebrated throughout classic history, thanks to Jane, Stuart and Austin.
For some reason I am a little slow on the 'draw,' ( as my distant relative Doc Holliday might say) as
writing poems eludes me right now. Mystery muse slump.

So glad you translated it, Austin--what fun!

Using my very long lost Latin crossed with Spanish, plus the very few words of Italian I know, I got: Here's the muse, and precursor of Tilly and a couple other lines. But the translation made sense of it all.


And Brava, Tilly.


I love this Phyllias, because on Thursday's post, the trail, I thought about how Tilly is a writer too, her paws are her mark-makers and the earth, her paper... Tilly looks like a dog-goddess in the portrait-shot (I accidentally typed doggess and I kinda like it!)

whoops! Phyllis, not Phyllias. Lots of typos today...

Once a publisher of a long ago poetry sheet, in San Francisco, "Lovelights "misspelled my first, middle and last name so I have decided it is a good luck charm. And Phyllias is
really lovely. Maybe I'll use it somehow.

Tilly says to tell you all that she's delighted by these poems and comments...and so am I.

"Interpretive dance" is Tilly's chosen art form, so here she is doing The Dance of Appreciation today for Jane, Stuart, and Austin...

....which mostly involves rolling around on the floor, waving her legs, showing her teeth, and striking silly poses, but don't tell I said so. She's very proud of her dances, as anyone who has met her can confirm.

Wonderful dancing I must say. Though lying on the floor in that way, she does look remarkably like me after a few pints of the local good ale.

Same story for me, Cynthia Rose, I loved 'A Wrinkle in Time' (and its sequels) and the Narnia books, and missed the subtext entirely. In fact, I think it was these books, along with the Susan Coopers, that first made me question Christian spirituality, and led to me deciding it just wasn't for me.

I've been lurking for a while now and I very much enjoy the sensibility of your blog. It's peaceful and beautiful.

I'm commenting now because Madeleine L'Engle is close to my heart. A few years ago I wrote a fan letter to her, but she was quite ill at the time. My letter was read by her niece, who was acting as her personal secretary. This woman took the time to write back a long, lovely note in which she said that her aunt would have loved to have received my letter in better days.

What struck me at the time was the devotion the niece had to her aunt. It speaks to what kind of person L'Engle was throughout her life.

Thank you for this beautiful blog. I am a writer in Massachusetts, USA. I love Madeleine L'Engle's writing, and I especially appreciate the Crosswicks Journal quotes above; they are rich and inspirational. We all need to look into the good stories and the great myths once again for their wisdom and the deeper awareness and connections they offer. My particular passion is what nature gives us so freely. Wisdom walks everywhere through the fields and the woods, and flies through the trees, and sits on branches... quietly speaking. I am so glad I found your site!
(Your Tilly looks just like my Dietrich:)I hope your day is wonderful!

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