This week you are just going to get a short update from me, rather than a tome as usual. I am somewhat overwhelmed recently with this Mary research paper, Italian vocab lists, and the desire to socialize at any and every opportunity. There are such fabulous people here, and I don’t want to miss a second of them. Nor do I want to get terrible grades. Nor do I want to come back from Italy without being able to speak some Italian!
Last night I got out of the shower at about 10, and was settling down to read “Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ” for our Mary research paper, when Katie knocks on my door. “Mackenzie!” she mock whispers at me with the excited smile which is the epitome of Katie Ness, “Come with us! We’re going to sneak up to the terrace and look at the stars!”
I didn’t understand why we had to sneak out to the terrace, seeing as it’s common property for all the students, nor did I understand how we were going to be able to see the stars when the kitchen lights were shining out there. But sure, why not? I’m in for anything involving excited smiles this semester. It’s been my resolution. “Openness is the operative word,” I tell myself, and my inner English-major chuckles at the alliteration.
To my surprise, we don’t go right down the hallway to the sala and the kitchen and the students’ terrace. Instead, we turn left and sneak down the portrait hallway where the piano is. Katie even took off her shoes and went barefoot on the cold floors so that she would make less noise. At the end of the portrait hallway there are a few doors, which I just always assumed led to closets or something. But the leftmost door, at least, leads into another hallway, and from there you can see a small chapel and stairs on the outside of the building. These stairs lead up on the outside of the building to a small roofed-in terrace overlooking the cliff. It was a beautiful view, and the moon was full. Apparently Alexis goes there in the early mornings for devotions. (Alexis is full of surprises - she’s super spiritual, and motherly, but also gets locked out because she forgets curfew, dances hip-hop excellently, and sneaks around the convent exploring before anyone else is up. I so love rooming with her.)
So maybe that made a lousy story. But it was a great experience: five of us sneaking through the hallways of the convent at night, stretching out into forbidden territory for a glimpse of something shining. And at the far end of the terrace, there’s a small niche with the Madonna and child in it, and it lights up with a small spotlight if you can find the switch. It’s totally kitschy, but it also somehow fits, at least with the silliness of us sneaking around to find it.
I feel like I am growing a lot this semester, I guess especially in coming to terms with the amount of my own courage. I’ve been afraid, as far back as I can remember, of the most ridiculous things. I lived in fear of our bathroom mirror for years, all because one of my little friends told me some ridiculous bloody mary story back in the fourth grade. I mean, seriously, there was never much courage there. So to be here, in a situation where once again everything is scary and new, but to be having fun in spite of that, and sometimes because of it? To be discovering that I like breaking the rules and venturing into scary territory sometimes? And to discover that placing myself in new and scary-as-hell situations can be a generative thing, that out of that comes a lot of creativity and new thinking is... well, freeing. Not that things are becoming necessarily less scary for me (although some things are, through simple repetition), but I feel lighter, and maybe a little bit fuller. And to be frank, this semester has involved stretching out into some new relational territory too. I find myself having to re-order a few threads of my twenty years’ worth of thinking, and I am finding some of it to be very good and some of it to be a little freaky. If it’s only April, and the semester has already been so full of growing things, will you recognize me by the summer?
It seems fitting that in a semester where I am coming to terms with so much of myself and my fears, Juanita calls me “the little black spider.” Because spiders, after all, were my worst childhood fear. And if I can conquer that this semester, well, I could pretty much take over the world.