Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Trip to Oxford--A Special Encounter With Lewis

I had a very special encounter while visiting Oxford, England.
Below is my article as published in The Virginian Review.

Photo by K.L.R.
AUTHOR’S HOME — The Kilns, C.S. Lewis’ home outside of Oxford, England, is a three-mile walk from Magdalen College, where he was a Fellow for 29 years. The outside staircase was built to allow him access to his bedroom without having to disturb the housekeeper, whose room was a connector between his bedroom and the hallway. This is one example of Lewis’ kindness and selflessness toward people. (Kirsten Richardson Photo) 

Virginian Writer Taken Aback By English Author's Home

Editor's Note: C.S. Lewis was the noted author of "The Chronicles of Narnia," as well as "Mere Christianity" and "The Screwtape Letters." Virginian Review Staff Writer Kirsten Richardson visited the home of the famous author during a recent visit to England.

Staff Writer

OXFORD, England - It was as though my heart was kissed, and I never wanted to wash it again. Walking away, I began to skip and then run. Hurrying to catch the bus; the smile on my face never disappeared.

I felt I had met and talked with the man himself, only to remember he died many years ago. Instead, I sat in his living room, listening to stories from a student of his life and works.

My adventure began earlier in the afternoon. Sitting in Oxford at Magdalen College, I told myself that to visit the dreaming spires and not visit the home of the creator of Narnia was absurd.

Three miles later, I arrived at Lewis Close, my excitement and anticipation nearly bubbling over. As I walked up the road, I prayed for an adventurous and special experience.
The L-shaped house sat on the right side of the road, with shrubs and garden surrounding it. Two cars sat in the gravel driveway, evidence that The Kilns is a private residence.

Having learned that morning that arranging a visit in advance was necessary, I was not sure what to expect. A sign on the gate confirmed the information, causing disappointment to creep in

Snapping pictures from different angles, the thought of turning around and going back to town immediately after arriving was the last thing I wanted to do.

Beginning an internal conversation with myself, I suggested knocking on the door, explaining I did not know the tour information before that morning, and asking if they would mind my wandering around the garden.

The battle between fear of disturbing strangers in their home and seizing the opportunity to walk around the grounds after making the trip began.

Weighing the options, I realized that if I refrained from knocking, I was assuming a negative response and not allowing the opportunity for a yes. Also, if it was a situation in a book, the character would certainly knock and make the request.

That did it. I walked up to the door nearest me and knocked. No response. I knocked again, a little louder this time. Still nothing. After the third time, I decided if anyone was home, they were in the main part of the house.

Walking out to the road and around to the gate, I pushed it open. It scraped against the bushes. Standing in front of the door, I pushed the bell. A loud brrringgg sounded from within, and I quickly let go, startled by the noise.

Waiting anxiously, wondering who would open the door and rehearsing what to say, I heard someone approaching. A middle aged man with grey hair and a moustache opened the door.

I began, "I didn't know 'til this morning about needing to schedule a visit. I was wondering if you would mind if I wandered around the garden?"

To my surprise, he invited me in, offering to quickly show me around. Entering the house, I found myself standing in C.S. Lewis' kitchen, just as it was when he lived there.

Ushering me through a foyer, housing a narrow staircase that curved back to the second floor, he offered me a seat in the living room. Looking around, while trying to avoid gawking, I noticed shelves of books, several chairs, and a beautiful wooden desk placed in front of a large, inspiring window with simple detailing, overlooking the garden.

For the next hour, I enjoyed conversation about C.S. Lewis, faith, and Oxford with an admissions officer and marketing associate from Seattle, Washington.

A wealth of information, Kim Gilnett shared facts, tid bits, and stories with me, emphasizing the selfless character of the man loved by so many around the world.

Sitting on the sofa, it felt like I had merely stopped in for a visit, not like I was a tourist in Oxford for the day. Wanting to make sure I made my train, Kim walked me to the end of the road, telling me where to catch the bus.

As I walked, skipped, and then ran, I realized a cup of tea was the only thing missing from my beautiful visit to The Kilns.

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