It’s funny the things you remember as you get older. For me it’s the feel of the summer sun on my face as the sun set on a day spent outdoors, the thrill of shopping for that one trendy item for back to school, and the way a book seemed to suck me in and at the same time harness the mood of the time so perfectly. I was 11 or 12 the first time I read A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. In the book, fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace and a unicorn undertake a perilous journey through time in a desperate attempt to stop the destruction of the world by a mad dictator.
Back in the late 80’s when I first read the book, I’m sure tensions were rising in the Middle East, but as a preteen I had no idea what was going on. Maybe I caught a hint of the impending crisis as the news played in the background but the innocence, and ignorance, of youth mostly kept me in a bubble. As I moved into my teen years I devoured that book over and over again. It spoke to me, and struck a chord deep within me that I can’t really explain, even to this day.
As the conflict in the middle east edged ever closer to a full out war the words that Meg and Charles Wallace repeated in the book seemed to me a talisman to help get us through the crisis we were facing with the onset of the Gulf War. I honestly thought that we were near the end, and entering the 3rd, and final, world war.
“At Tara in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness!”
As I lay in bed each night I was scared for what the morning would bring. I was sure the end of civilization as I knew it was edging ever closer. My thoughts churned as I morosely contemplated the odds of that end coming like a thief in the night, stealing those things we needed to survive, or arriving in a flash of light and then darkness taking over as the powers that be set loose their atomic might.
The constant worry over what kind of world my baby brother, who quickened in my mother’s womb, was entering into kept me up many a night.
I prayed that I would never feel that ripple of fear creeping up my spine again.