The Shape of Early Life

South Dakota sky

Sometimes I think the sky was created just for me. But I know that’s not so.

Still, on a cool Sunday evening – target shooting with my husband while wearing his free old work cap he got from a seed dealership to block out the, well, you see it above – I look up and whisper thanks for a sun sky just for me.


I’ve been reading a book titled Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, another of C.S. Lewis’ chronicles, this one traveling readers down his road from faith to atheism, and back to faith again.

While reading C.S. Lewis, I am reminded of my father. Not that he is a religious man, but that he was a melancholy, basement study-dweller that I imagine Lewis to have  been. I remember times of opening his office to see him writing away his anger, his disappointment, his worries of running three businesses while wondering if he had made the right choices, done the right work. I think most men wonder this time to time if they’re going to be truly honest with themselves.

Later on at night when everyone was asleep, I would open the door to his study, stepping on books and papers over to his desk. I would open his little notebook and read his poetry, not being able to make any sense of it. I think he did that with purpose.

And what I learned from my father, is too much melancholy can make the mind and soul weary, and we need that balance of joy and thanksgiving, unless we become consumed with what ifs.

Only keep your ears open and your mouth shut and everything will lead you to everything else in the end –  C.S. Lewis


South Dakota sky


47 thoughts on “The Shape of Early Life

  1. I like to think sunsets were made just for me. Even though I am often surrounded by many people and cameras snapping away. It does remind me to say a often silent thank you and squeeze the hand of the one I enjoy sharing them with the most. Your pictures are always beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. Beautiful, thoughtful post — and it really struck me that in response to your father’s frustration and melancholy, you married a man of action who takes such joy in farming, hunting and doing … and who obviously brings you so much joy & gratitude. I was deeply touched by this post and your lucid honesty! Have a happy, blessed day!!

  3. I feel the sky and its sunrises, sunsets and mystical, magical cloud formations were created for all of us. We only need to be mindful, to be in the moment. Then we are able to stop, to notice and rejoice, celebrate and be thankful for the splendor. Thank you for the pictures and the wonderful reminder to stop and drink in the majesty of our surroundings!

  4. My father was the opposite of your dad in that he never showed his melancholy. I never knew if he had any and I suppose I never will. I think I would have liked reading poetry my father wrote, even if I did not understand.

  5. What an important post. I agree that excessive melancholy can be quite worrisome. My father never showed very much of any emotion, not melancholy, joy or anger. In fact, my parents emphasized the importance to me of controlling all my feelings. I’m here to say, it doesn’t work all that well — eventually feelings are bound to spill out, thank goodness. I’m happy to say that by design I married a man who embraces the joys and happiness of life, in fact the full spectrum of life. And I have to say that I too sometimes think the sun sky was created just for me.

  6. Lovely post. I enjoy reading C.S. Lewis also. It’s always so enriching and its usually give you just what you need when you need it. Thomas Merton’s books are good for that also. Have you read any of his works?

    • Thank you, Lenore! Good to hear from you – thinking of your young one and hoping he has an excellent school year! I recall feeling nervous of not meeting expectations as a grade schooler, and often received marks for “not paying attention”. I guess we all receive information and process it differently, huh?

  7. CS Lewis has been a favorite since childhood. Have you read his Perelandra series? They’re lesser-known I believe, but another fantasy trilogy that I found fun years ago. All of his Christian meditations are amazing.

    Another beautiful post, CW!

  8. So spot-on about men in particular who reflect perhaps far more often than they should about what-ifs…guilty as charged! Lessons learned from a parent come in all sorts of packages…well done!

  9. This is very interesting. I did not know that C.S. Lewis went through an Atheist phase. I find it particularly interesting as some of the more conservative Christian groups (ie, Adventists) adore C.S. Lewis and his writings to near idolation status. Yet, they are anti- Harry Potter and refuse to see the Christian symbolism J.K. Rowling put into her works.

    • Additionally, the same set of Christians reject J.R.R. Tolkein, who was Lewis’s best friend and was the primary person to talk him back to Christianity.

      (As you can see, I’m puzzling out this rejectionist behavior by some particular sects- which seems hypocritical and theologically bigoted to me. I just don’t understand it).

    • “adore near idolation” – so true! I know just what you mean. I try to be careful what I get all excited about, because I want to be mindful of what I’m taking in. I sometimes struggle with Lewis’s writings because of the time in which he wrote them, a language barrier, but usually find some nugget of confirmation that helps me along this journey. I don’t follow much of Rowling’s work, did as a kid but lost interest, but hadn’t realized she intentionally put in Christian symbolism. Interesting!

      Thank you for your insight! I have gained much from Tolkien, too, and did not realize they were best friends. Makes perfect sense, though!

  10. And it was of love that you wrote of your father’s angst so eloquently. Thankful he had writing as a means of venting.

    The sky ?? Breathtaking and soul-restoring .. all in one.

  11. Wow… you MUST write your father as a character in a novel. You did such a wonderful job of describing him in his study that I felt like I was RIGHT there. Loved every word of it! And I’ve had a “cloud” post planned for a few weeks. Stay tuned for my sky photos ;-).

  12. Pingback: Bohumbug, Books, and Bowie « The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

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