Around the World with a Good Book
Golden clay bakes gently in the warmth of the sun. Brilliant multi-hued shawls lend a dappled glow to the souk. She looks up and with the sun illuminating them from behind, the feathery bits of cloth are as vivid as stained glass. All around, the scent of exotic spices perfume the air as merchants wave their wares below the noses of promising customers.
The gondolier’s throaty baritone fills the canal, bouncing off walls to return and join the chorus once more. High overhead, winged, stone lions keep close watch on the city. The stars peek over their shoulders to see what is going on in the city. The song ends and abruptly the canal widens onto a piazza. Revelers in rich costumes and delicate masks filled the streets. Lights festoon the plaza bathing everything in a glow so bright it seems the sun could not bear to turn its face away from this ancient city.
Sleigh bells carol out a merry greeting and the horses’ hooves send plumes of snow into the air. Fur lined lap rugs keep everyone toasty warm, except for noses turned cherry pink by the December chill and tongues held out to capture the first delicate snowflakes of the season.
I didn’t take my first plane ride until I was seventeen, but I’d already been around the world many times. Books have an inherent magic to transport us. It can be to the neighborhood café, or to an entirely different universe.
I know that there are any number of people who will only read stories with settings they are familiar with. I have a hard time relating to that mindset. Not that there is anything wrong with it! Everyone gets to do what they like with their own book budget. But I get more bang for my buck by being swept away somewhere I can’t get to in my everyday life.Books let us experience a world beyond ourselves, beyond our usual sphere. Part of the power in books comes from their ability to open the world to us. I’m a complete Anglophile because of The Little Princess, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries. Once, on our way to an assignment in the Seychelles, I arranged for an extra stop at Heathrow airport because I’d read about it so often in various stories that it seemed like being a part of a larger story just by passing through that airport. (BTW, I don’t recommend it. Gatwick is a much nicer airport.) That brings me to my next point. Traveling via book is not nearly as much hassle.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, (we’re missionaries so it’s part of the job description,) but I could happily do without the inevitable annoyances, both major and minor. In a book you can explore without the inconvenience of competing tourists or a companion with a bladder the size of a peanut. The rhythms of a different way of life and the nuances of culture are laid open to us and we never even have to leave our sofas.
What place means magic to you?
Have you ever been there in ‘real’ life?
What was the last book that transported you?
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