He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
—Ecclesiastes 3:11

These hauntingly beautiful lands… somehow never satisfy… —C.S. Lewis, Letters I:970

The of this blog name is inspired by C.S. Lewis. Throughout his entire life, Lewis has haunted by “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction… I call it Joy” (Surprised by Joy).

Islands of Joy” are moments of sehnsucht or sweet desire evoked by art, poetry, music, or nature. A line from Tennyson, a phrase by Wagner, a glimpse of Turner, or a sudden wind across a field of wheat—and the soul springs up, yearning for something more, but not sure what it wants. It wants to possess the beauty: to ingest it, devour it, assimilate it. It wants to become that beauty. It wants to make more beauty. And it wants to know Who made that beauty in the first place, then be united with Him.

This desire shot through C.S. Lewis's heart, a painful, glorious yearning, at the sounds of certain words, the sight of a distant landscape, or the strains of sublime music. He tried a wild variety of words for this experience throughout his life: It, Romanticism, heraldry of heaven, intense longing, sweet desire, enchantment, the Blue Flower, the dialectic of Desire, immortal longings, divine discontent, the authentic thrill, the heraldry of heaven, inaccessible longings, ice-sharp joys, unfulfilled desire, and Sehnsucht. He finally settled on “Joy,”

A lot of the content on this blog is inspired by or related to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and the other Inklings. The primary writer, Sørina Higgins, is a Charles Williams scholar: please check out her other blog The Oddest Inkling, all about Williams. All the other writers enjoy the works of the Inklings, some as fans, some as scholars.

Here on Islands of Joy you will find book reviews, film reviews, articles on Inklings themes, and other Inklings-related posts. You will also find discussions of any arts that take our fancy at the moment. There is plenty of analysis of Doctor Who.

There is another Lewis connection, too. He lost his mother at age nine, and later wrote: “With my mother's death all settled happiness . . . disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.”

In those astonishing encounters with great art, we are lifted out of the gray, dull, or stormy sea of everyday experience, shot through with a dart of longing. Those moments are bright sparks in the darkness of sin, violence, depression, and drudgery. As Chaucer wrote: We blunder ever, and poren in the fire, / And, for all that, we fail of our desire. But the desire keeps taking hold of us, sharp as swords, sweet as sex, swiftly-passing as the wind. It is a kind of wanderlust, a yearning to travel to:
The land where I shall never be
The love that I shall never see.
Lewis Letters I:283, quoting Andrew Lang
There is a huge theme in European literature of longing for Western Islands: Atlantis, Avalon, Númenor, Valinor, Venus/Perelandra, Sarras.... I hope to write or edit a book on this topic one day.

But rare is the traveller who reaches one of these longed-for islands.

Because the whole point of the longing is that it cannot be satisfied in this life. It is a signpost to Heaven. All satisfactions here fail to satiate, because we really want God.

In the meanwhile, we alight momentarily on these islands of joy, stopping to gaze at a painting, read a poem, listen to a piece of music, or stare out at the horizon.

Meet the Authors

Sørina Higgins is a writer, Inklings scholar with an emphasis on Charles Williams, and English teacher at Penn State (Lehigh Valley) and Lehigh Carbon Community College. Her full-length poetry collection, Caduceus, is available on and Barnes & Noble. She is the Book Review Editor of Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal, a staff writer for Curator, and host of Ekphrasis: Fellowship of Christians in the Arts. She holds an M.A. In English from Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English. Sørina and her husband live in Kutztown, PA, in a home they built themselves.

Rosie Perera was given her first camera, a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 10, as a Christmas present at age eleven. Her parents saw her potential and gave me a real camera, a Canon Canonet G-III 17, a few years later. It was on a trip to Europe at age 21, with that Canon in hand, that she first realized she had a photographer's eye. She was captivated by that feeling of having made something of beauty. After graduating from college, Rosie worked as a software engineer for eleven years, and then studied theology for another eight, during which time she developed her skills and love of photography. She studied at Focal Point photography school, in Vancouver, BC, and has also taken workshops through Rocky Mountain School of Photography and Cascades Academy of Photography in Issaquah, WA. Her travels all over the world, and the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest have provided much of her inspiration. Rosie has shown her work in the Lookout Gallery in Vancouver and the chapel of the Menno Simons Centre. Her photos are in private collections in the US and Canada.

Introducing a new co-writer! Dr. Crystal Hurd is an educator and researcher from Virginia. She lives with her husband and three dogs. A self-proclaimed “book nerd,” her interests include reading, writing, photography, and listening incessantly to MUTEMATH. Over the past decade, she has read and researched both biographical and rhetorical aspects of C.S Lewis, fully endorsing his integration of faith and intellect. Dr. Hurd loves discussing Lewis as well as various aspects of spirituality, apologetics, and leadership theory. Her dissertation applied Transformational Leadership theory to the life and works of Lewis. She is currently researching the role of artists as leaders.

...and introducing a new occasional guest blogger:
J. Aleksandr Wootton is the author of the Fayborn novel series and a miscellany of other writings, many of which are available on various sites around the web. He is also professor of folklore at Lightfoot College. His research focuses mainly on post-war Faerie, and on accounts of meetings between humans and sojourning fay. He enjoys cooking, gardening, and long conversations accompanied by a well-brewed pint.