A couple of weeks ago my friend John Hendrix posted this excerpt from JRR Tolkien’s journal:
Friday 14 April: I managed to get an hour or two’s writing and have brought Frodo nearly to the gates of Mordor. Afternoon mowing.
Books like The Lord of the Rings, take us to other worlds. But they aren’t written in other worlds. They’re written in this world, where grass still has to be mowed.
The next entry is just as good:
Tuesday 18 April: I hope to see C.S.L. [C.S. Lewis] and Charles W. [Charles Williams] tomorrow morning and read my next chapter — on the passage of the Dead Marshes and the approach to the Gates of Mordor, which I have now practically finished. Term has almost begun: I tutored Miss Salu for an hour. The afternoon was squandered on plumbing (stopping overflow) and cleaning out fowls. The are laying generously (9 again yesterday). Leaves are out: the white-grey of the quince, the grey-green of young apples, the full green of hawthorn, the tassels of flower even on the sluggard poplars.
We remember Tolkien the writer, but he was also Tolkien the friend, the teacher, the amateur plumber, the poultry-keeper. He was also Tolkien the observer of the actual world around him–the world God made, not just the one in his head.
I’m reminded of Stephen King’s desk in the corner, which I wrote about in a Tuesday letter a couple of months ago:
Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
Yes and amen. Tolkien, as we see in these journal entries, was just tending to his business. Sometimes his business was getting Frodo to Mordor, and sometimes it was getting the grass mowed.