As if by miracle, St. Paul's Cathedral survived the December 29, 1940 bombing of London. Events during the WWII years through the present are explored in the 2011 memoir "Iona Dreaming" by Clare Cooper Marcus. She shares a healing journey that took her from England, to Berkeley, California, and the remote Scottsh island of Iona. Marcus knits insights about life and relationships with reflections on the natural world. She created a new life following her recovery from cancer.
As a young girl, Clare Cooper was among the thousands of English children who were sent to the countryside for protection from the bombing of London that started September 7, 1940. She recounted Adolph Hitler's relentless assault that continued for 57 nights of fear and destruction.
The story left me in awe of the courage of the Britsh, particularly the miracle of St. Paul's Cathedral. Here's an excerpt, "On December 29, 1940, German planes dropped 24,000 incendiary bombs, starting an inferno that lit the way for the second wave of planes carrying high-explosive bombs. The fires were concentrated around St. Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. It was Hitler's intent to shock Britain into surrender by destroying this sacred and symbolic building. Word came from Churchill to the firefighters: 'Whatever you do, save St. Paul's.'
"Fires destroyed an entire square mile of the city and came within 25 feet of the cathedral walls, but it survived--as if by a miracle. Photographs of the cathedral dome, floating like an island in an ocean of fire, became a potent symbol of Britain's determination to survive."
On her reasons for writing, Marcus quotes Arthur W. Frank, "People tell stories not just to work out their own changing identities, but also to guide others who will follow them. They seek not to provide a map that can guide others--each must create his own--but rather to witness the experience of reconstructing one's own map."
Marcus's nuanced writing allows readers to witness her inner and outer journeys. She considered the island of Iona an ally in her search for soul. "I surrendered to the teachings of this place of healing, it whispered to me in countless different ways, reminded me, commanded me, in a firm but loving voice: 'Don't go back to sleep.' Indeed I will not."
May we all be so determined to stay awake to life.