Places: Grandfather’s house

“Grandfather’s house is, to put it mildly, unusual.  It used to be a stable, a real stable for real horses.  When Grandfather bought it before he retired, he left up most of the stalls and had bookcases built in them, for all the hundreds and thousands of books he’s collected over the years and can’t throw away, either because he’s going to need to checks something in one, or they might be useful for a grandchild or friend or neighbor.  Leo, for instance, uses Grandfather’s library for most of his school papers.

“Grandfather’s bedroom is the only real bedroom.  Up in the loft there are half a dozen cots and that’s where we sleep.  We’d never before spent more than two weeks at a time on the island , and it’s always been special and a holiday and fun to sleep all together in a dormitory.”

“I woke up in the middle of the night; well, not quite that late, because the full moon was pouring its light through the attic windows and that was what woke me.  The loft was filled with a pearly light which almost drowned out the lighthouse beam.  The words of the verses Grandfather had painted on the wall were clearly visible:

If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find the on the ocean shelf,
And say, “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “this is enow
Unto itself – ‘twer better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”

“Sir Thomas Browne wrote those lines at least three centuries ago, but they always made me think of Grandfather, empty of all the horrid things, and filled with gentleness and strength.  As for me, I felt replete with very me, full of confusions and questions for which there were no answers.  Suzy cried out in her sleep.  John turned over and the old springs of the cot squeaked as though John had disturbed their rest.  Then I looked at the cot on my left and it was empty.  I wasn’t worried.  Mr. Rochester would have let us know if anything was wrong.

“I heard the ladder creak, and Rob clambered up, trying to be quiet.”

Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

———————————————————————————————————————

Aside from my obvious magnetic attraction to a house full of books I love this building because of its simplicity.  The walls are decorated with painted quotations, moonlight shines in open windows to tell the passage of time and the aging structure creaks as people move around it which gives a sense of comfort and security.  It’s a lived-in building which tells its history in its design.  I’ve often wished my grandparents lived in a house like this one.

This post is a Place Description quoted from Madeleine L’Engle’s Ring of Endless Light.  I intend no slight to the author in using this excerpt, in fact I recommend that you visit your nearest library or bookstore and get your hands on the real thing.

 

If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,

Like to a shell dishabited,

Then might He find the on the ocean shelf,

And say, “This is not dead,”

And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou

And hast such shrewd activity,

That when He comes He says, “this is enow

Unto itself – ‘twer better let it be,

It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”

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