Blog Post #3
“Close your eyes in order to see.”
Decades ago, during a cultural refinement lesson, the teacher of the class, a good friend of mine, pointedly asked me what words immediately came to mind when I thought of castles. Without hesitating, I responded that castles were Romantic. After all, there was Camelot! Chivalry! Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland! Fairy tales and legends—all filled with magical dreams and heroic ideals! Castles were, in my mind, synonymous with romance.
Knowing this would be my response, she then shared her perspective with the class. I was completely surprised! She thought castles were damp, cold, drafty, dismal, and anything but homey. To her, there was very little romanticism in a castle. I sat in stunned silence as my glittering bubble—filled with starry-eyed, quixotic visions of fairy tale castles—was slashed to ruin by her sharp sword of realism.
There was one startling difference between us: she had experienced real castles in their native lands. I had not. Our perspectives were shaped, to a certain degree, by our experiences.
On another occasion, I was visiting with this same friend and her husband when somehow we struck on the topic of fairy tale landscapes. (I know,—a strange topic of conversation for adults, but we ran the gamut with these folks.) He had always envisioned fairy tales taking place among cedar trees and sagebrush—a landscape similar to central Utah where he was raised. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Cedar trees and sagebrush? A dry, almost barren landscape? For fairytales?
I couldn’t deny him his ideal, but it sure wasn’t mine! I have always imagined fairytale settings as lush, with dark forests, ferns, mossy undergrowth, beautiful foliage, and quaint, cozy cottages. Very Disneyesque. To me, cedar trees and sagebrush provide a setting for cowboys and pioneers, not for fairy tales!
Fairy tales, by nature, are imaginary. We can make of them whatever we want. My friend is as entitled to see knights fighting dragons among the scrub brush, chiggers, and cedars of *central Utah, as I am to see them among the oaks, birches and bluebells of Sherwood Forest.
What it all boils down to is experience, imagination, and perspective. Oh! And a healthy dose of partiality. Each person’s perspective is unique to them. Without experience to provide accuracy, my imagination takes over, adapting to my preferences and dreams. Oddly enough, imagination,—which by definition, would seem to be independent of reality—becomes limited when not fed increments of real-life experience to enlarge its horizons of creativity.
Experience may give a better view of reality, but only if I choose to see it. Sometimes, I think people may superimpose their preferences and dreams on top of reality to satisfy the longing in their heart!
My sister has toured England, its motte-and-bailey castles, and stone keeps, its hedgerows and moors. Nothing detracts from her idealistic view of medieval and Renaissance times—of castles, knights, pirates, artists, and every kind of heroic adventure with a hint of romance in it. She is attuned to seeing all of life—her own included—through romantically-heroically-rose-colored glasses.
Real-life experience with castles provided clarity for me, altering my perspective. Since my friend’s lesson so many years ago, I have traveled to Italy and have seen its versions of castles, cathedrals, and palaces. I must admit, I’ve changed my opinion of castles in general. I agree with her: I wouldn’t want to live in one. Too dark. Too damp. Too drafty. Too dismal. (I hasten to add—too inconvenient!) And they are anything but homey, which is what I love. Cold, hard stone perched on a precipice, having to first hike a small mountain, then winding, narrow stone streets, only to climb a multitude of stone stairs to reach a dank and rat-infested fortress is not for me.
Still, there is something romantic about a castle in a fairy tale setting…as long as it lives in my imagination (and at Disneyland).
*For the record, I have been to many lush and beautiful parts of central Utah—especially in the mountains. I know those places exist. My friend had referred specifically to cedars and sagebrush.
© Copyright April 16, 2014