My husband, Tom, is an amazing in many, many ways. He's a great father, a loving husband and smart and funny...I could go on, obviously—I married the guy! On this list of his many talents, this man has a way with words. And he isn't a self proclaimed writer like me, he's had a few things published. And, he would be embarrassed to promote this but he even won some writing awards at university for his thesis, An Apology for Christian Doubt, which was a fictional conversation he wrote between C.S. Lewis and John Donne—pretty cool, right? I love this man, so you may think that I am exaggerating his abilities, but I'll let his writing speak for itself.
Tom is currently in seminary in the process of getting his Masters of Divinity. He just started a class on writing creative non-fiction, which is a lot of what I do every time I post on this blog. He wrote this short piece for his course and I want to share it with you, friends. So here it is, my first official hosting of a guest post on my blog, featuring my very own husband.
St. Mark’s Square in Venice
By Tom Appel
I can’t remember the mosaic at St. Mark’s Basilica. I remember the sunlight bathing the square and the elegant blown glass figurines, waving at us from each shop window. I remember the call of the extortionist gondoliers and the 10 euro slice of lukewarm tourist-trap pizza I had to force myself to eat. I remember thinking the church looked Byzantine, although even now, I couldn’t give a good definition of what I mean by this description. We waited in line and paid to go and see it, but I can’t remember the image or even the subject of that stunning work of art—though something about St. Mark is likely a safe bet.
We arrived in Venice on the first train from Milan, which had departed before sunrise. It would be the only day I spent in Venice, but I would argue that a key to her magic is in the light blue water that surrounds her. You can see it from the train, just feet away on either side, gentle lapping waves of glimmering aquamarine welcoming you, like a baptism. We walked the winding streets crisscrossing canals until we found St. Mark’s square. Joanna wanted to feed the pigeons and this was before the city had banished the filthy birds by expelling the merchants who sold sandwich bags full of what looked like Corn Flakes to tourists for 2 or 3 euro. So we bought a bag, and I took a picture of Joanna, covered with pigeons.
We escaped to Venice. We were running from a different journey that was turning sour – a season of aborted expectations. We had moved to Britain two years before on a mission from God, but now we were exhausted by the busyness of church work, the antsy feeling of unfulfilled dreams and the constant fatigue of foreignness. We had just lost another baby, so we escaped to Venice.
We went into St. Mark’s Basilica, and I remember being awestruck by the mosaic – so many bits of enamel affixed in some glorious unrecalled form like the final evolution of the puzzle. I remember flashes of gold and shades of blue like the waters of Venice, the pieces, but not the whole.
Now, my three sons take turns telling stories each night as part of our bedtime ritual. Their stories are like mosaic, bits of the day pressed together with pieces of their favorite stories to create something else. A mosaic is hopeful, breathing fresh purpose and life into broken things. I like what this makes me think about my life, that my stories are parts of a larger picture that makes sense; and what it makes me think about the world, that together people can create something greater and more beautiful than apart. But I don’t remember the whole, only the way the parts moved me.
We ate gelato and watched the sunset on a stoop across the canal from the train station. The air was filled with incongruous music from some Native American dancers who were giving an open air performance. I want our stories to be pieces of something that makes sense. I want to rejoice in new life breathed into broken pieces.