THE KILNS

035

….around them wreathing
Excellent clothing, breathing sunlight –
Half understanding, their ill-acquainted
Fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
Trees as men walking, wood-romances
Of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn’s
Collar, pallor in the face of birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for soul is watchfull)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.

–C. S. Lewis, “The Future of Forestry”

The Kilns, C.S. Lewis’s home for most of his life, is located in one of the suburbs of Oxford that fan from it like a crumpled skirt. It was the sight of a former brickworks and the pond pictured here is in the forest Lewis planted for himself behind the house. Walking through sagey leaves and rust-colored ferns which ooze water under the footsteps, ducking at branches and twigs and catching mirror reflections in the water, it’s easy to imagine what this place might look like in spring, what Lewis must have tramped through daily for a pipe and a think on the brick wall by the pond, what Lucy saw when she woke before dawn in Narnia and walked through the forest, the silvery young women and the gnarled barky old men, following the sound of Aslan’s voice–

The first tree she looked at seemed at first glance to be not a tree at all but a huge man with a shaggy beard and great bushes of hair. She was not frightened: she had seen such things before. But when she looked again he was only a tree, though he was still moving. You couldn’t see whether he had feet or roots, of course, because when trees move they don’t walk on the surface of the earth; they wade in it as we do in water. The same thing happened with every tree she looked at. At one moment they seemed to be the friendly, lovely giant and giantess forms which the tree-people put on when some good magic has called them into full life: next moment they all looked like trees again. But when they looked like trees, it was like strangely human trees, and when they looked like people, it was like strangely branchy and leafy people – and all the time that queer lilting, rustling, cool, merry noise.

“They are almost awake, not quite,” said Lucy. She knew she herself was wide awake, wider than anyone usually is.

She went fearlessly in among them, dancing herself as she leaped this way and that to avoid being run into by these huge partners. But she was only half interested in them. She wanted to get beyond them to something else; it was from beyond them that the dear voice had called….

She stepped out from among their shifting confusion of lovely lights and shadows. A circle of grass, smooth as a lawn, met her eyes, with dark trees dancing all round it. And then – oh joy! For he was there: the huge Lion, shining white in the moonlight, with his huge black shadow underneath him.

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