Uncle Andrew and his study vanished instantly. Then, for a moment, everything became muddled. The next thing Digory knew was that there was a soft green light coming down on him from above, and darkness below. He didn’t seem to be standing on anything, or sitting, or lying. Nothing appeared to be touching him. “I believe I’m in water,” said Digory. “Or under water.” This frightened him for a second, but almost at once he could feel that he was rushing upward. Then his head suddenly came out into the air and he found himself scrambling ashore, out on to smooth grassy ground at the edge of a pool.
As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool — not more than ten feet from side to side — in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others — a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drink the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterward Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.” — Excerpt from The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
These are the opening paragraphs of the third chapter of the first book of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia . This is the place where the adventure really begins as Digory finds himself slipping from his own world into the Wood Between the Worlds, as the chapter is titled. It is the first of many times in the series that we pass, almost by accident, into another world.
As a child, I loved this series because it made me believe there might be other worlds just around the corner. The idea that I might stumble over some threshold at any moment and find myself in the midst of some grand adventure was exhilarating. As an adult, this notion has never quite left me.
The part of me that believes whole heartedly in mystery finds that I do indeed slip into these other worlds from time to time. Most often it is when I become lost in the creative process and — as with Narnia — time ceases to exist for a while. At other times it is a walk in the woods, or an act of worship, or the witnessing in someone else an occasion where heaven and earth meet in an ebenezer of a moment. And I believe that these are the moments when I stumble over the threshold and encounter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Imagine my surprise, a few months ago, when my head came out into the air and I found myself scrambling ashore on to smooth grassy ground at the edge of a . . . laundromat? The twenty-year-old washing machine that was in our house when we bought it had finally quit, and there were no twenty-year-old replacement parts to be found anywhere on the interwebs. Not only that, but a new washing machine was most definitely not in the budget. So, harboring much crankiness in my heart and wishing that I were independently wealthy, I hoofed it down the street to my local Wash World with four baskets overflowing with laundry.
It should be said that to call laundry my least favorite chore would be an understatement. In fact, I was flipping through an old journal the other day and found a poem I wrote several years ago, which I titled, God Damn the Laundry. So, I was not happy to be there, but I got my eight loads started none-the-less and settled into a chair to wait with a book.
It was quiet there, with the hum of washers and dryers lulling away my grump. The air smelled of laundry detergent and fabric softener, while the florescent lights gleamed off of the clean, white tile floor. An avid people watcher, I soon found myself putting down my book to study those around me. I watched as a young, Latino man lovingly took a red jersey from a yellow, mesh hamper where his soccer ball and cleats were nestled. Wearing a Buchari Kippah, another man carried a large bag into the laundromat for his wife who walked beside him. To my right a woman wearing army fatigues unloaded her duffle bag into the washer. Across the room, a father and his college-aged son folded laundry, an old man read the newspaper, and a little boy wearing football pads fidgeted and doodled on a piece of paper. The woman in front of me was wearing a hijab and loading her freshly laundered clothes neatly into a basket. A handsome, black man about my age, with thick, long dreadlocks pulled back by a straining rubber band, sat beside me tapping his foot to music that filtered softly, sounding almost like running water, from his ear buds.
It was peaceful there as I watched all those people with their diverse backgrounds working together side by side. You could almost feel the trees drink the water up with their roots. It was a rich place: as rich as plum cake. It was a glimpse, I think, of the Kingdom.
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. Matthew 13: 31-32