Steve and I seem to be drawn to geeky, nerdy things. Or so we have been told. To us the things we enjoy do not have such labels, but we tend to get labeled cheesy for many reasons.
Often we dress alike, and most of the time it is not intentional. We enjoy the same kind of movies and books and events. The last major event of our vacation most likely qualified for every tag I just mentioned. Steve and I, however, have wanted to go to one of these events long before we met or married.
I am not sure what I expected. I am not sure if I even knew exactly what I expected. The event asked us to be there an hour earlier than our dinner time, so we complied. That hour gave us ample time to peruse and shop at their many vendors in the great hall of the castle. They moved what would have been the village sellers inside the building. The market owners (souvenir sellers) milled around the keep hawking their wares. I am almost sure that this is what burst my bubble.
I realized I was expecting a very real and authentic experience. I wanted a castle with rushes on the floor and a fire in the fireplace and Irish wolf hounds sprawled beside the tables. I wanted the castle to be dimly lit, if not by real wall torches then at least by simulated ones. And I wanted a crown, but certainly not the paper one they handed us—one with tabs to attempt to make it fit any head.
I was disappointed.
Until the falconer entered the hall.
No one seemed to notice him. Perhaps the other guests were put off by his austere demeanor. The falconer was dressed in monochromatic colors: blacks, browns and grays. He matched his bird.
Menacingly fierce. Haughty and aloof. Silent and observant.
They mirrored each other—eyes moving to and fro. Watching. Compressed energy. I approached the falconer even though everything in his body language expressed for me to do otherwise. I was curious. And curiosity often gets the better of me. I fought the urge to reach out and run my finger down the bird’s curved head. Actually if he had asked if I wanted the bird on my arm I would have agreed with absolutely no hesitation.
Apparently in my enthusiasm I invaded the bird’s personal space. In a hard tone the handler eyed me.
“He’s not a friendly sort. He doesn’t like strangers.”
I stepped back. I had been warned.
For that few moments I experienced something unexpectedly authentic. The bird was real. Very real. It had been trained. Its hood dangled and its talons curved around the falconer’s arm. It swiveled its head and peered at me. Had I reached out to touch him I believe he would have snagged a chunk of flesh out of my hand. His handler may have been playing a character role, but this was his bird. It followed his commands. It listened to his voice and submitted to his control.
This interaction changed the evening for me. After this I ignored the many anachronistic details of the whole production. Instead I looked and searched for what was real.
The horses were real. One horse, sent to the ring alone, performed while its trainers were in the corners of the arena. Galloping and prancing into the fog. Silvery white—a flash. The great white horse danced. Elegant and graceful. Such contained power.
The feats of skill of the six knights were real. Their spears hit the targets; the relays were quick and fast. The lances pierced the centers of rings. They had the ability to not only ride a horse, but to command one. One knight’s horse decided it did not want to cooperate. Our heads turned following the rearing hooves and the shaking head. Our eyes were riveted on the drama, but the knight’s patience was visible and after a tug of war he prevailed; the horse at last obeyed. The jousting caused you to wince. The lances shattered when they hit the shields, splinters of wood sprayed across the sand of the arena.
The frustration of the acting knights was real. When one missed his target you could see the drop of his head, the muttering and mouthing of words perhaps better left unsaid.
The food was real. The serving wenches brought us tomato bisque soup and poured it steaming into our pewter handled bowls. No spoons. Then they carried out enormous platters of chicken and potatoes. They placed half a chicken on our plates—succulently roasted and perfectly seasoned. The potatoes were steaming hot with a smattering of herbs crusted on the top. We ate the food with our hands, and the heat burned our fingers. And I smiled. We eat chicken fingers and fries with our hands all the time, but so much of an experience is about context isn’t it?
I searched for what was real.
During the tournament there were many other things that were real: my husband holding my hand under the table, his arm across my back, his gentle squeeze on my shoulder, his smile and wink, my daughter’s gasps of awe, her smile at me in the faint light of the arena and her willingness to do this nerdy thing with us—all that was real.
Gratitude washed over me, and such a sense of raw contentment and spontaneous thanksgiving bubbled up inside my spirit.
The gratitude, contentment and the thanksgiving were very real.
God is teaching me in every arena of my life, every arena, to search for what is real. Through his Holy Spirit he is enabling me to find what is authentic
At the medieval feast (and in other places) I learned that sometimes my vision is impaired because the only things I see are the details that are not right or the elements that don’t fit. Sometimes my experience is warped by my expectations. Sometimes I don’t see the real because my attitude is out of line. Sometimes I miss the real because I am searching for the wrong things often in the wrong places.
But if we ask Him, if we just ask, he will give us our until moment.
And when he does—
Oh! When He does...