Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Sonnet, Trinity 18" by Madeleine L'Engle, in Honor of My Sister Barb

"Sonnet, Trinity 18"
By Madeleine L’Engle

Peace is the center of the Atom, the core
Of quiet within the storm. It is not
A cessation, a nothingness; more
The lightning in reverse is what
Reveals the light. It is the law that binds
The atom’s structure, ordering the dance
Of proton and electron, and that finds
Within the midst of flame and wind, the glance
In the still eye of the vast hurricane.
Peace is not placidity; peace is
The power to endure the megatron of pain
With joy, the silent thunder of release,
The ordering of Love. Peace is the atom’s start,
The primal image: God within the heart.

This poem appears on the last page of the book The Weather of The Heart, Selected Poems by Madeleine L'Engle.  I first found the book in December while Christmas shopping for my children, and I immediately knew I had to buy it for my sister Barb for her birthday, which is today.  Later I went back and bought another copy for myself.  Barb loves anything by Madeleine L'Engle with a passion.  In my mind's eye, I can see her as a child and as a teen, curled up with A Wrinkle In Time.  That has always been her kind of thing, and it's lucky for both of us (and a testament to our parents) that we are always allowed full access to terrific books -- from the library and the bookstore -- when we were children.  Now we are both authors, I of inspirational non-fiction and poetry, she of often edgy time-warping YA novels that are yet to be published. When we were very young, we used to write stories together.  Not "together" as in working on the same piece, but as in working side by side, reading snippets here and there.  I think she gave me her only copy, delicately illustrated, of her first book, Miss Bluebird's Dancing Lesson. I only wish I knew whatever happened to it.  We also used to design our own dream houses side by side, complete with detailed layouts.  Then we would furnish them curtain by curtain, dish by dish, bookcase by bookcase (of course!) from the Sears catalog.  The legacy of reading great books continues.  I think of a single title from our own childhood, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, which Barb's son Doug ( took along to his college dorm room, and my nine year old son Ben has at his bedside.  And I read A Wrinkle in Time to my own children last year.

Back to the Sonnet for a moment. I chose this one because my sister has literally endured a "megatron of pain" with horrid chronic migraines plaguing her almost daily for years on end, despite a nerve stimulator and PFO surgery and lots of pharmaceuticals.  My prayer for her in the midst of it is peace, "a silent thunder of release." So much pain, and yet so much love that she has poured into me in spite of it.  She is an ocean of compassion and concern and courage for me.  Last year, for her 50th birthday, all she wanted was for me to fly up and join the family for a trip to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.  And so I did!  See here for the photos: Weekend Gratitude for Family in Maryland and Longwood Gardens Here is just one shot from the gardens: my mom, brother John, Barb, my dad, me, and Grandma Hess in front.

Happy birthday, Barb!  And a few more childhood photos...



California years
(though this picture was taken at Crater Lake, Oregon)
Much love,

P.S. There is another L'Engle poem from this book in my post "Shimmer and Shadow."


  1. you are a beautiful woman, Virginia

  2. A very touching birthday tribute--what a rich treasure to share the connection of books in a family, across many miles and new generations. And what a great gift of shared love between sisters in spite of long-term, intense pain. Happy birthday wishes, Barbara, with extra wishes for relief (if only wishes DID something, but alas, relief is not ours to give, only the hopes for it).
    Dana (the Florida one, not the related one!)


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