Published: Feb 02, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 02, 2013 05:54 PM
C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, among other things, is an author I return to again and again.
An interesting character, is our Clive
Though he became a prominent Christian writer and apologist, the road to his faith, described in his book, Surprised by Joy, was not a direct one. Intellectually, he questioned the existence of a deity, but he couldnt deny the power of moments of what he called, northernness that sort of in-rush of feeling that signaled to him that there was, indeed, something other than the physical world. I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky. I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale and remote) and then ... found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.
Lewis experienced northernness as a child while looking at a miniature garden in a box, reading Beatrix Potters Squirrel Nutkin, reading Norse mythology and listening to Wagner. Not all at the same time, mind you, and maybe not in that order.
Sometimes I get a sort of rush of joy like this. Im not talking about the all-around jubilation that comes with big events like weddings or the birth of a child; Im referring to the whoosh of joy that comes with small moments.
Its unexpected and indefinable, and sometimes comes with chill bumps, or shivers, or tears.
Over the holidays I started thinking about this during a concert featuring the Von Trapp Family Singers. When they broke into The Lonely Goatherd, the hair on my arms stood up and I thought, This is a perfect moment.
The show was in Raleigh, but further reflection revealed that most of my northernness events happen right here in Chapel Hill, like these:
• Walking through McCorkle Place in the fall when the leaves were all gold and orange and its the first day of sweater weather. This works for me every time.
• The sight of Old Well in spring surrounded by azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. I know its a cliché heck, I used to have a VISA card with a picture of that on it! But what an explosion of color and chill-bumps on my arms!
• At UNC football games when they play that hark the sound of Tar Heel voices line as a searing guitar. Duuude
Likewise, hearing the Clef Hangers sing Hark the Sound. If this were my blog, Id link you to it on YouTube. And hearing Aye Zigga Zumba in any form always gets me right here. I think its because my dad used to sing it to us when we were kids.
• Seeing my kid, who is in not in any way what he calls a sports nerd, throw himself into the activities sponsored by the Carolina Kids Club. We cant participate in every thing they offer there are just so many but hes hit balls with the golf team, and gotten autographs from some of the giant basketball players.
• Seeing author Thomas Wolfes childhood Christmas list in an exhibit at Wilson Librarys North Carolina Collection. While living in Asheville, I developed a secret crush on this notable Asheville-native, UNC grad. I know he was a kook, but hes OUR kook.
• Talking UNC sports with other tourists in London. OK, this didnt actually happen in Chapel Hill, but once I was having tea in London and a fellow American heard my accent as I placed my order. When he found out I was fresh off the plane from North Carolina, his most burning question was this: Did [UNC] win the game?
• My son was born at UNC Hospitals in early May, and that night as I nursed him, I could see from my window the lights and colors of the graduation fireworks, welcoming my baby to town.
• U2 at Springfest, 1983. At the time, they were still a fairly obscure little band of Irish rockers. It was raining and cold and attendance was poor, but from the minute they sauntered four abreast onto the field, my body produced chills and shivers that had nothing to do with the weather
and an unending stream of tears. I dont even remember what songs they played, but the quote above from C.S. Lewis describes my feelings perfectly. And not just me people all around me were embracing and crying. Its the kind of thing that happens once in a lifetime even in a special place like this.
Sure, each person is touched by different things ... but for me, Chapel Hill is the place where beauty, grace and school spirit induce such moments fairly regularly. I guess you could say its where the South meets northernness.