In the inscription in the front of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe CS Lewis wrote to his niece:
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again”
While the inscription is quite well known, less well known perhaps is the fact that the Narnia Chronicles began with an image, a picture in CS Lewis’ mind. He held onto that image for a quarter of a century, and then one day (as reported in an essay entitled ‘It All Began with a Picture’ Lewis made the decision to see if he could make a story about it.
That picture was of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. A simple enough image, but from it came one of the best-loved, most thought-provoking fairy tales of all time.
The inscription inside the book (quoted above) seems to give a real glimpse into CS Lewis himself. At 16 perhaps he had grown out of fairy tales but by the age of 40, he had grown back into them. I’m so glad he did.
The owl is renowned for being a wise creature and we’re probably all familiar with the idiom ‘as wise as an owl’. But is it true? And if true, is the owl born wise, or does that wisdom come with age or experience? Or is there another aspect to gaining wisdom?
Most owls in the wild don’t have a terribly very long life span. I’m not sure what the average age is, but according to one source the oldest snowy owl living in the wild was recorded to be 9 years and 5 months, while a captive snowy owl lived for at least 28 years. The main reason for the longevity in captivity is almost certainly due to the abundance of food in captivity and lack of and protection from natural predators. That means compared to many creatures the owl doesn’t have that many years to gain wisdom, but certainly his or her survival in the wild depends on learning about the environment.
What are the dangers? How are they best avoided or minimised?
What is the best way to get the nourishment they need? Are there strategies that can be adopted in adverse conditions?
How does an owl find the right mate? And how is it best to raise their offspring?
The owl may not consciously seek answers to these questions. We don’t actually know. But finding successful answers – a holistic way of life if you like – is needed for the species to survive.
I want to be wise. I want to make informed decisions about important matters. As I’ve aged my priorities have changed and the way I set about achieving aims has in turn brought new wisdom. Like Lewis I have had an image in my head for sometime. It’s not of a fawn carrying an umbrella.A snowy environment isn’t really part of the picture and there are no parcels. The question is am I old enough – wise enough – mature enough – to start to see if I really can make a story out of it?
What powers of perception and intuition can I learn this year from the owl? And am I ready to put the learning into practice.