Sunday, February 15, 2009

There and Back Again

“Well, I’m back.” So ends Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. Sam returns to his home and family after seeing Frodo sail away from the Grey Havens, having been entrusted with the red book to continue writing the story. He returns home.

I’ve often wondered, when I’ve returned from a long journey back to the world I left, how Tolkien knew – the feeling of alienation, of difference – that you’ve changed, but no one really knows or understands. Had Tolkien been on a great journey? Had he had that experience? And the telling of the tale – I’ve wondered about that, too. Was it some innate instinct of the storyteller within that made him leave a character to tell the story? Or had he, having had some great experience, have lost those with whom he’d journeyed, attempted to tell their story to a misunderstanding world?

Before Keren was born we nicknamed her Baby Baggins. Loren and Kraig loved Tolkien’s stories and the first film was still in theatres when Loren found out she was pregnant. The theme continued with her birth: she was small, like a hobbit, and she even had pointy ears. Loren and Kraig saw even then that her journey would be something like Frodo’s, arduous, hard, painful, and the only way through would be with the help of friends.

When the third film came out, the final song, “Into the West,” sung by Annie Lennox, caught our hearts. For Tolkien, the West is heaven, and Frodo goes there, leaving Sam with the commission to tell his story. The song was also written in honor of a young man, a friend of the filmmakers, who died of cancer while they were making the film. Sometime after Loren heard the song, she said to me, “I hate to think about this, but if Keren dies I want this song at her funeral service.”

Loren remembered that last week, and once again we were reminded how like Frodo’s Keren’s journey through this life was. And our role, her family and friends, was confirmed to us as well – we have gone on this journey with her and remain behind to tell her tale.

Well, I’m back. And I wake in the morning and make and serve coffee, and I walk through the grocery store or fill my tank with gas, and all around me, speaking to me or going about their own business, are people. And when I look at them I want to scream out, “Can’t you see? Can’t you see that I’m different? My world has changed and I’m looking at you through a lens that has transformed my view. I know I look the same, but I’ve changed; I’m different!”

I want to tell Keren’s story. I want to write it in the red book and share it with those who did not take this journey with us. They need to see, to experience the changed world I know. And perhaps their lenses won’t change as definitely as mine has, but even one divot will alter their view. The story must be told by those who remain.

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