One of the defining elements in the way a writer works is the connections their mind makes. And let’s face it, writers’ minds can make some pretty unusual connections sometimes. Maybe one of the reasons writers like to hang out in groups when we get the opportunity is because our minds work in similarly eccentric ways.
Although both women had mystical visions and their life spans crossed— they actually met in an event Margery records— they lived far different lives, had far different personalities and wrote in vastly different styles:
After her amazing showings Julian lived a life of quiet contemplation as an anchoress in a single room attached to a church in Norwich, going nowhere and seeing only her servant and those who came to her worldside window for counseling— Margery being one of those seekers. Margery travelled the world, going on pilgrimages as far afield as the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostelo.
Julian wrote her Revelations of Divine Love, speaking only of her visions and of the love of God for his creatures. She divulges no details of her personal life— we don’t even know her name. We call her Julian because that was the dedication of her church. We know how she would have lived because she lived by The Ancrene Rule which set out rules for anchoresses. That left me free as a novelist to imagine a life for her prior to her visions which she experienced at the age of 30. Had she been married? Had she taken vows as a nun? No one knows, but I had great fun entering into "what might have been."
Margery tells all. Even of the joyous sex life she shared with her husband. (They had 14 children.) She tells of her period of madness after the birth of her first child. She tells of her spiritual struggles with earthly vanity. She tells of her shrieking and bouts of uncontrollable weeping that made one group of pilgrims abandon her so that she had to cross the Alps in a blizzard with only an aged priest as companion.
And yet both women tell of the love of God, of the goodness of life. They speak of joy and beauty in the midst of unbelievable suffering. They tell stories I could never invent in my wildest fantasy. And it’s all true. And it’s all ours because two women centuries ago put their unique experiences on paper. Is it any wonder I feel my roots tingling when I contemplate the connections?
What writers of past or present do you feel connected with?