She Believes In Fairy Tales

She does.  When she’s sick she reads Grimm’s fairy tales.  In Ezekiel 16 she reads a grim fairy tale, and it is by far her favourite.  She philosophizes about fairy tales, she writes them, she loves them.  And furthermore, she doesn’t care if people think it’s silly, because she knows in her head and her heart and all her being that it’s not.  You don’t think something’s silly that you believe in.  Look, it’s not just Cinderella or Snow White.  It’s what they mean.  She knows that they mean something far greater than happy endings, than dancing princesses and wicked old hags.  For her they represent more serious plights in the world today, each one of them.  They represent things in this world and out of it, transcendent.

She lives a fairy tale.

The truth about fairy tales is this. Faeries do not fly around on feathery wings.

The truth about fairy tales is this.  Some have sad endings.

Fairy tales aren’t always the fluffy animated Disney characters whose likenesses you can purchase at your local Wal-Mart.  In the original Cinderella story, Cinderella’s sisters had to cut parts of their feet off to fit into the glass slipper, and it was by the blood dripping on the road to the palace that they were betrayed.

She believes that the story of the Bible is like a fairy tale, and that the hidden chapter that reveals this peculiar truth is Ezekiel sixteen, and that’s not a pretty story either.  “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”

There is beauty in these tales, and there is terrible grief and much to instruct her.  To quote her dearly beloved Chesterton on the matter… he says that fairy tales don’t prove that dragons exist, but that dragons can be beaten.

I have a visa in my possession, I have a plane ticket, a few clothes, one book, and two weeks left in America.  The adventure? Siena, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany.

Image

I took this picture on my last trip to Italy.  When I clicked down on the button, exclaiming again and again because of the sudden, unexpected beauty, I had no idea that just two months later this would be my home for four months. A few hours later, the opportunity was presented to me and I said, “I’ll look into it,” and to myself I said, “What a joke.”  I applied to the Siena Art Institute, I was accepted with a full tuition scholarship.

In two weeks I’m leaving to live with an Italian family and to study creative writing in this historically rich town.  I haven’t latched onto reality yet, even in the midst of working hard every day to make this happen.

And I’m terrified, really.  I’m terrified to be so disconnected from my home.  I’m terrified of that loneliness.

But I also believe that the fear can be conquered.  And my mind is open.  My desire is to learn.  In this opportunity God has blessed me exceedingly. My desire was never to attend a university for four years.  Rather, I wanted to study in areas I was gifted in, specifically creative writing.  My desire was to learn, to be competent in what I want to spend the rest of my life doing—writing.  I want to write to change the way people think, and I don’t—don’t—don’t want to write Christian fiction.  (My hero is Wendell Berry.)  I had no idea that I could study outside of a university—especially overseas.  I didn’t even look into the idea because I thought it was impossible—even though it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Now I have to ask for your prayers.  I’m going to a strange place, away from fellowship that has been soul-strengthening.  I am going to a place that is prominently Atheistic and then Catholic.   I am praying that I won’t be alone and that I will find some other Christians to fellowship with.  Pray that my mind will be open and I will learn many things from this trip.  Pray that I remember to blog.  Pray that God gives me strength to be stalwart in my faith, and that he will sustain me throughout these four months.  Pray that he will prepare me for whatever lies ahead, since I don’t know what to expect.

I am excited.  I am sad to leave my home, sad to leave many people I love, but I know that God is working through me, and I can’t wait to see where he is taking me in all of this.

I believe in fairy tales.  I am living one.  And so, I believe that this is an adventure, absolutely worth taking and worth enjoying.

And I give all the glory to God for everything in my life, for the suffering and the joy and the contentment and the peace.  He’s working through me and sanctifying me, and all of it is for his glory.  Praise the Lord.

R.H.

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Venice | Murano, Burano, Torcello, and Santa Margherita Piazza

It’s mid afternoon here, and the bells of the churches are all clanging together, blending with the background hum of people talking in Santa Margherita around the corner, and staccato heels clicking down the quiet alley where our apartment is.  I can hear birds too, and beyond even these noises, the sound of boats and water.  After that—nothing.  It’s quiet in the midst of the noise, if that makes any sense.

Yesterday my aunt and I set off to some of the outer islands.  We visited Burano first, which is basically known (as far as I could tell) for it’s brightly colored houses (see picture.) Yeah. But at the same time I was really struck by the fact that people paint their houses to go with the other houses, creating an atmosphere for the whole town.  Usually when people do anything about their houses, it concerns their personal taste only, and they paint or decorate it accordingly.  To me, Burano conveyed a sense of community even when it came to taste and decorations.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

After Burano we took the Vaporetto to Torcello, one of the oldest islands around Venice. By oldest meaning I believe it was the first to reach civilization, but with the rise of Venice the population dwindled, and now it’s down to 60 people, a Byzantine cathedral, and the old church of Santa Fosca.  We didn’t tour the cathedral, since the ticket prices were just a little above comfort level, and we could glimpse the inside on our way out.  We probably weren’t supposed to peek but we did anyway.  We amused ourselves by looking in the gardens at old, crumbling statues outlining grapevines, and by wandering down the gravel paths and looking at the teal colored canal.  When we see tourists heading in one direction, we usually head off in the opposite direction.

 

On Torcello, we stopped at a restaurant to get a cappuccino and spritz.  We sat under a tent and scribbled away for about forty-five minutes or an hour.  Then the restaurant closed and they had to unlock the gate for us to get out.  We made our way back along the canal to the Vaporetto stop.  The man playing his accordion made a very weak attempt to hide the fact that he already had made several Euros by putting them under a basket, keeping only one Euro in the basket.  Desperate, I guess.  But his music was good.  It’s funny because walking around the towns you hear them playing a great deal of Henry Mancini and Frank Sinatra. I wonder why, sometimes.  And sometimes I don’t wonder—sometimes I just enjoy it and hum under my breath.

(The reason that the above picture is better quality is kind of funny… it was at this point in our trip that I realized that all my pictures were turning out hazy and blurry because the lens had a layer of filth on it.  So I cleaned it up about five times and started taking pictures with better results.) The next island was Murano, the glass blowing island.  Here some of the factories go back a few hundred years.  It’s a generalization to say that everything was beautiful, but everything really was.  I’ve never seen so many unique pieces in my life, although we visited a glass blowing factory when I was little (or I seem to remember that—I could have made it up).

When we came back at last (making one gelato stop—how could we not?—before reaching home) I was in all literal meaning footsore and weary.  It was at this point I started missing my younger brother Duncan’s foot massages.  He’s the only one who can massage my feet without making me laugh hysterically. (But you didn’t really need to know that, did you?) After snacking on fresh peas, cherries, bread, salami, asiago cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers all day it felt good to have a nice spaghetti dinner out in the courtyard.  Italians eat late—around eight.  Or nine.  Or ten.  It depends. No earlier than eight, usually.  They’re still having cocktails and appetizers.

Auntie went up to work and after a bit I went out into Santa Margherita square, sat by the Executioner’s house (he doesn’t live there anymore… he moved out about a hundred years ago. Or more.). I enjoyed this very much.  It was calming in a way to watch the Italians have their idea of a good time.  There was that hum of people talking.  The square was full of them, sitting in circles on the stone ground, occupying every spare seat and bench.  For the bartenders, every night is a busy night.   It’s not a mad kind of a party, not a dangerous kind of mob.  It’s a kind of gathering of all sorts of friends—again, a kind of community thing, and even at eleven at night families were there with their children of all ages running about everywhere.  It was very interesting.

But I like the quieter things, too.  So I left the square and went to the Ponte dell’Accademia, which is at the south-eastern end of the Grand Canal, from what I can tell.  I wouldn’t trust my sense of direction, though.  Last night I still that Venice was on the Western side of Italy.  As in the Tyrrhenian Sea side.  Again, something else you didn’t need to know.  And I’ll end with this little thing.  I like to watch the five distinct lights that shine on the Grand Canal looking out from the Accademia Bridge… I like to watch them flicker and move with the water, disturbed only for a moment by a passing water bus or a taxi or a gondola with a tenor singing some Italian song.  Behind me sits a man with some instrument akin to a guitar, playing music that sounds like Michael Praetorius.

“Gratzie, Signor,” I say, smiling and dropping a euro into his case.  He smiles back at me, melodically, as graceful as his music.  That’s how I like to end my nights.