The Northernness

“If you’re full of beauty and positive things it’s harder for stuff to get to you. Joy is not a luxury that you can tack on when you’ve sorted everything out, joy is how you will sort out your problems… I’m reading ‘A History of God’ by Karen Armstrong. I’m working on a couple of projects where I look at the origins of God. Why did we invent this guy? And what’s his relevance now?” (Caitlin Moran, quoted by Imogen Carter in The Guardian)

These remarks by Caitlin Moran triggered a memory of a book that had an impact on me in high school: C. S. Lewis’s “Surprised by Joy.” It’s a biographical account of his conversion to Catholicism. Growing up in sun-baked coastal Texas, I was struck by his fascination with what he termed the “northernness,” which I recall as his way of describing a shapeless spiritual yearning which later was fulfilled, for him, by Christian faith.

I had a similar obsession then with things northern, a longing for relief from endless summer, that came out in a sonnet I wrote for senior English class. The sonnet’s lost, but its title was “L’Aquilon,” French for the North Wind. It evoked, in strict meter, how the first “norther” of the season, usually in October, refreshed my spirit and gave me strength to carry on with my adolescence!

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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