What no Lines?

A Story Retold

ferrals le momtagne

It was a story C S Lewis told. Where, I do not know, although I am sure a trawl would find it. Like so much of what the great master has written and which I never tire of reading, it explained so beautifully and so clearly something that that has eluded my understanding for so long.  He could tell it so that the ordinary guy, me, could understand. But this story had a special significance, because it was about lines and I am a dealer in lines. Ever since, as a toddler, my mother shoved a pencil into my hand and directed it towards a sheet of paper, I have found my hand drawing. The call of the pencil pulls me. There is something about that newly sharpened point, not the boringly uniform cone from a pencil sharpener, but the hand formed chiselled point with its broad and short edges, long bluntness and wild sharpness and the virgin whiteness of blank cartridge which calls out, beckons me to explore, once again a new world of endless possibilities.


The lines define the space between them and they together tell the story. They are not the thing but only a hint of the thing. It is somewhere else. It is the lift of the wave in that moment before it crashes over the dark rocks, the memory of the sun drenched day high up on the ridge, the secrets hidden in the dark brooding wood, the fear, the love the joy  and the feeling you are trying to express. I earn my living by lines. Most often they are lines that define something which is not yet there. It is something that is yet to be and hoped for. The lines describe in two what becomes a reality in three. Most never get that far but are aborted abandoned and remain as frozen images in a gallery of lost causes. But what joy, when the lines come together with the spaces they define and with the graft and effort become a reality, a building  with real spaces and light and shapes and textures and movement and colour a home, a work place, a teaching space, a worship space, a healing place, a garden.

merton door

She was a woman of great courage, vision, intergrity and compassion. She cared and carried the heavy burden not just of her family but of her people in their plight.  She spoke out against the injustice, committed herself to the long haul and relentless and tirelessly pursued the rightness of the cause.   She put her life on the line. So it was, that her enemies frustrated in every attempt to silence her, finally had her arrested on a false charge and committed to a life in prison with no prospect of release. Fearful that they would have a martyr on their hands, they took great care of her and in her prison, provided for her health and safety, convenience and comfort. They gave special care as she carried her child and in the delivery she was offered the best facilities and support.  The little boy was born into a safe protected world with everything he needed and plenty of stimulus to grow and learn but with one major handicap. He did not see, or breathe or taste the outside world. All he knew was the square of blue above the exercise yard, the square of light  that Oscar Wilde describes in Reading Jail:

“I never saw a man who looked/With such a wistful eye/Upon that little tent of blue/That prisoners call the sky”

As the cheery lad grew his mother wanted to tell him of the outside world and prepare him for the time when he would be released, even if she never saw it herself. She was not an artist but she knew how to draw and with pen and paper she taught him each day, drawing from her memory the animals, flowers, mountains and waters, towns and cities and people at work and play, of explorations and discoveries, and as the boy grow he was totally enthralled in this world she had described and looked forward to the day when he would see it.  He loved the stories and they provided great joy and release in their limited environment. And then it happened. One day as she was drawing and describing a scene, he said something which brought her up with a jolt. It dawned on her that he had not grasped anything she had been teaching him.  She stopped and began to explain that the real world was not pictures, not pencil and ink, lines of paper, not shapes in two dimension but real things. For the first time in his life great sadness creased across his face and a look of terrible disappointment clouded his eyes.

“What…in this real world there are no lines?”


Crawford Mackenzie






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