“A door had shut, the low door in the wall I had sought and found in Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden.” —Brideshead Revisited
This line is one of the saddest I have ever read. My heart feels pierced for poor Charles Ryder at losing his enchantment! I’ve been thinking about this line for days now. Do we naturally lose our enchanted garden as we get older? Are the doors to the enchanted garden fewer in number? Do we forget to look for the “low door in the wall”? What do the doors look like now? Where do I start looking?
My heart becomes pierced for me when I think of all the enchanted doors I used to go through so easily which have now closed. Opening them today may lead to nostalgia, but not the same enchantment. What were the things that enchanted me or took me away? My world of stuffed animals who talked to me and were my friends. My model horses who were a constant world in my head. My sandbox cities. My dirt pile. The color blue. The magical summer at seventeen when I was a counselor at a horse camp in the hills of southern Ohio; none of the seven of us knew each other going in, but for that whole summer—20 campers each week, 30 horses, and each other—enchantment. That place is no longer a camp, but it still invades my dreams. Where are those enchantments now?
I suspect that the doors take more effort to find now in my forties, but they are still there. Instead of sliding easily through them, childlike, there is an attentive perception that must take place. What enchants me now? There have certainly been sentences or passages from books, like this one, which cause me to stop and ponder. There are certain pieces of music which cause my heart to swell; the sounds resound deep within my soul, bringing me to tears. There are pieces of art which seem to have such depth that I just want to crawl in and live there for a time. Nature, the vastness and the minuteness, and everything in between. My three years as a CiRCE Apprentice were an enchanted garden. I felt such grief when that time came to an end. The door closed never to open to the same enchantment. The more I think about it, the Close Reads Podcast group is a door to enchantment.
Maybe there are more doors in the low walls than I thought. Perhaps the key to finding them is to know they are there somewhere and slow down enough to find them. Not only do we need to know the doors are there, but we also must be willing to fall under enchantment. Can we live without the doors? Yes. But can we really live without the doors? I don’t think so. Finding a door is soul-nurturing and the joie de vivre. The movement from door to door is important as well. Living in expectation of the next door is living in hope. Discounting them or rushing past the doors is despair.
So what do I do with this? Having experienced these doors and recognizing that they need to be looked for, isn’t it my responsibility to pass them on? How do I convey this idea to my children? To my students? I don’t think I can tell someone what should enchant them. I don’t think I can just give them a “door map.” A student may be enchanted by my enchantment with something, but can I push them through the door? This recalls the dwarves at the end of Lewis’ The Last Battle who went through the door, but just couldn’t see the flowers or taste the food. It was all there, but they refused to see it. Pushing someone to a door almost guarantees that they won’t see it.
Maybe what we’re called to do is to communicate the idea that the doors exist; not giving them a “door map” and sending them on their way, but joining them on the journey. Invite them to our doors, but honor their doors as well. I must remember that what enchants at four or fourteen is much different than what enchants at forty.
On a deeper level, Jesus is the ultimate door. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:7-9 What good thing comes to us, including enchantments, but from our Creator God?
May we always be willing to seek the doors. May we never rob a student of the knowledge of the doors. May we be acceptable guides in God’s sight to those around us.