Sometimes I feel like this suffocating media saturated culture needs more of a purging than it needs redeeming. Perhaps that’s what redeeming is: a cut, a death, a rebirth.
We live in the smothering land. It is hot and burns with heaving waters of lust. On the lathering-warm nights some of us “slit a slave’s belly open like a sack” and dabble our “feet in the warm bowels.”[i] Some of us are the devil fleshed, or most. We float far from the fissures and fictions of ice—the nebulous novella, the ephiphanic aha of winter’s deep.
More place than time, more destination than season, winter whispers along the dirt road and I run into the pressing sun’s shine wishing for the moonshine of those cold austere nights of starry beauty.
"To the north!" There, where the divine island of true desire floats upon icy seas. There, Heaven's King looks out over the hot lands to the south, waiting to purge. He bides in quiet, readying to strike the Southern Dragon.
Remove this heat and muggy-ness! I desire respite from the unholy grimy thirst for the insatiable: the whoring-hot media, the southland of decadence, the cries and justification for the sensual, the brown-girls John left impregnated in the forest of the Land Lord.
"There in the grass beside him sat a laughing brown girl of about his own age, and she had no clothes on. 'I am better than your silly islands.'"[ii] And they fornicated.
Some call this the realm of Muspell—the incendiary land of giants and wolves from the Nordic underworld. It is the naked snake love land that singes my hermit heart—a dying heart, a yearning heart. For more than the hot flesh. More than the dying glory of the blood eagle.
“To the north!”
Where the dull red ember hangs distant over the noiseless forest. Where the low ebb of life fools the noisy. For in the pressing cold, water forms into crystals, precise. Splendor from stillness—crunching, shattering, glistening beneath my feet.
“Does the way grow easier? Or do the snows yet increase?”
For I journey northward, out from the worm land of Muspell. On my passage a young man joins me. He is wrapped in the heavy furs of the white northern bear. His head is shrouded in a white wizard’s cowl. A glinting blade protrudes beneath his furs, stained and steaming.
“Have you come this way before?” I ask.
“To the north? Yes, many times. But this is my final journey.”
He does not lift his head, but continues to speak. He tells me of a land further north, behind the snows, behind the north wind—regions with power to “elevate the soul from earth … where the sun is for ever visible.”[iii]
We make camp and in the fire glow he tells me of his exploits; how he killed the Southern Dragon.
“In her own spew the worm died
I rolled her round and tore her wide
And plucked the heart from her boiling side.”[iv]
But when I returned with more sticks to feed the fire, he’d vanished. But I found my sight strengthened with the splendor of knowing. “Did not my heart burn within my chest while he talked in the glow about the land behind the north wind?”[v]
Tomorrow I will walk further north. I will follow this new splendor, this new vision of mine. My hermit heart, now a monk’s heart—I will pray through the wounds of Jesu and press the steaming stain against my chest, letting it cut deep, and deeper still. My taste for flesh, now taste for the other—I will find the divine island where my desire finds home: Joy of “a world of waves and murmurings and wandering airs, of life that rocked in winds and splashed on mossy stones and descended as the dew and arose sunward in the thin-spun delicacy of mist.”[vi]
What lies behind the north wind? This thin-spun delicate Joy. It is true earth, true heaven, true you, true me. Call me Borean, and come with me through the deep snows of the north. For the Southern Dragon lies gutted, and further up a deep blue waits—with rainbow skies and delight.
[i] Frederick Buechner, Godric: A Novel, Reissue edition (San Francisco: HarperOne, 1999), 5.
[ii] C. S Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism ([Grand Rapids, Mich.]: Eerdmans, 1981), 13.
[iii] Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 15.
[iv] Lewis, Regress, 195.
[v] Luke 24:32
[vi] C. S. Lewis, Perelandra: A Novel, 1st Scribner Classics ed (New York: Scribner Classics, 1996), 172.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.