This morning we walked through Christchurch Meadows, which was one of my two favorite running routes the last time I was here. What I did not know at that time is that Alice Liddell, after whom Lewis Carroll famously modeled Alice in Wonderland, grew up playing around those meadows as her father was the dean of Christchurch College. Walking through with that information gave me new eyes, and suddenly we could see whispers of Wonderland everywhere: the thatched roof cottage that traps Alice as she grows, the lazy river, meadows, and the rows of shrubberies with white and red roses. It’s clear to see what may have inspired certain elements of the story.
C.S. Lewis is another Oxford author whose inspiration is evident around the city. The paths and park behind Magdalen, the college where he was a professor, is where he used to go for walks and think of Narnia. One alleyway not too far from Magdalen, contains several elements that served as inspiration to him. Does this faun look familiar?
What about the lamppost just beyond the faun?
Or the lion on this doorway?
These are exciting to see as a C.S. Lewis fan, but I think there’s also a very important lesson in this. The imagination of these authors could not have been inspired if they had not walked through life with their eyes and minds open. They did not allow their surroundings merely to fade into the background, but they observed, took note, and allowed themselves to be fascinated. What would happen if each of us allowed ourselves to walk around with eyes and minds open? What if we allowed ourselves to dream just a little? The application for writers is obvious, but imagination and ingenuity applies to every profession. With open eye and open mind, you never know what ideas may form for a business presentation, marketing scheme, or an engineering solution. If nothing else, we we walk through life with an appreciation for the beauty, whimsey and the intrigue that lies all around.