Once more, it is late and I am awake. Moonlight paves into my room through the unclosed window. My earlobes sting dully from new piercings(!), and my brain whirrs with thoughts and half-thoughts. I think about moonlight and the window –
– and my brain images a random, yet connected, memory. I’m fifteen, visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a GCSE art trip. I’m meant to be sketching all I can see, learning the beauty of forms through rough pencil strokes.
I earnestly sketch, after the heart and instruction of my teacher. Yet it’s my mind that’s captivated, rather than my hand: as I see these sculptures, words move into my head and pitch up tent, presenting themselves as more creative and compelling than my rudimentary and unlearned sketches. Words reflect truly my relationship with the art in front of me – even then I was a writer.
On this sketching trip, Turrell’s Deer Shelter caught my mind the most. It’s installed in a field with arresting simplicity: it is only a room with a square hole cut out of the ceiling. I sat on one of the benches around the edge of the room, and later I wrote these words:
Turrell’s work explores light and the sky and strives to create a space for thinking and contemplation. Sitting in the Deer Shelter, gazing at a square piece of sky made me feel good to be alive and to be able to enjoy earth and sky and art as they are. It was amazing to see the sky seemingly coming below the roof…coming into the room as you looked at it longer.
These young words capture something for me, even today. I was amazed then to see the sky come below the roof, into the room – and I am amazed now, experiencing the quiet moonlight pouring in through my bedroom window.
I am amazed because, when the sky pours into the room, it shows that there is something more out there, beyond the window frame. In the Deer Shelter the sky was bright blue and fluffed over with woolly clouds, and beyond the small square of what I could see I knew that there was a whole skyscape to be seen.
In my room tonight, the moonlight paves its way through the dark. I know that if its silver pathway is followed it will lead to the moon itself and the stars, those strange and silent lights that comfort us as our globe spins through space.
You see, there is wonder beyond the window frame. The stars in all their glory; the hands of God holding them in place.
I imagine what it would be like to be Alice stepping through the looking glass. She walked with fear and curiosity, stepping into a new world and having her expectations and perceptions turned upside-down and inside-out. She found strangeness, newness and friends, and through her journey into the unfamiliar she learned so much more about herself and her world.
What if we too, metaphorically, stepped through the looking glass? Followed the moonlight path out of the window, or climbed through the square opening in the ceiling of the Deer Shelter? There is so much more than we immediately see; there is wonder beyond all that we could ask or imagine. And God delights to invite us into this wonder.
Madeleine L’Engle writes about one way of accepting this invitation in ‘Walking on Water’, her stunning book which I have been reading over this Christmas break. Her words are these:
When we are writing or painting or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions and opened to a wider world, where colours are brighter, sounds clearer and people more wondrously complex than we normally realise.
Her answer to the inviting wonder of God’s world – found in the complexity of people, and the sounds and colours of everything around us – is to explore it, through writing and creating. Through creating (which all of us can do), communicable form is given to the depths of wonder around us, the ‘something more’ in the sky beyond the window. Writing draws cosmos out of chaos; our creating somehow incarnates the hidden things of God which he has given us to make known to all people (Mark 16:15; Ephesians 3:1-13).
I find this to be true tonight as I gaze at the moonlight and imagine what is beyond. I find this to be true in the Bible, a lot in the Psalms, as it uses stories and poetry to reflect on the goodness and love of God. I hope to find this true in my own creating, as I write to incarnate; to imagine further; to explore the wonder of our God.
Soundtrack: Bethel’s ‘You Make Me Brave’