Fina is not the protagonist of The Color of the Sky. She is only the younger sister of the protagonist, and at first glance might not seem of great import. Blinded from a fever two years before the story begins, Fina can see nothing for herself, but instead relies on her sister Margot to see things for her. Fina's deep appreciation for beauty leads her to constantly ask Margot to describe their surroundings, to tell her exactly how the sunset looks tonight and what kind of birds are wheeling in the sky above them.
Margot struggles with describing these things to Fina, exactly mirroring the way I constantly struggle to give an accurate picture of the beauty (or ugliness, or somewhere-in-between) in which my characters find themselves. Because people. Description is hard.
I've read so many wonderful books that seem to perfectly nail the tricky task of telling it like it is... The Yearling comes to mind, as do A Tale of Two Cities and The Bronze Bow. These stories were all blessed with authors who knew how to marry the right words, to use just enough adjectives for coloring and just enough adverbs for seasoning. And yet there's still another Book that has even greater word-pictures within it, one that wouldn't have immediately sprung to mind if you had asked me to name a piece of writing that evoked a beautiful sensation.
See, I was always a little scared of the latter books in the Old Testament. Hosea, Joel, Amos and ObadiahJonahMicah were lumped together like HIJKelemenoP in the alphabet song. And Ezekiel and Daniel? Well, Daniel was good reading in the first half, but after that when the prophecies began... it was over my head. I'd understand it all when I got older.
That was the excuse I hid behind for many a day. In truth the excuse was roughly shaped like a very slender and spiky tree, and I resembled a child about twice the width of the trunk who blissfully believed that she was perfectly concealed behind the spindly branches. Then came January 2012 and my resolution to read the entire Bible in one year. Which meant the minor prophets. And Ezekiel and Daniel. (Also Song of Solomon which I'd always steered clear of because it embarrassed me in places, and Leviticus with all the laws... my goodness, I'm being quite candid tonight, aren't I?)
When I began Ezekiel in July, I was in for a surprise. Sure, there were plenty of passages I didn't understand. Yes, the Dry Bones song started running through my head as soon as I began chapter 37. But it was chapter 27 that really arrested me, that stopped me in my dutiful plowing, that made me sit up and take notice (and a pen to underline) and truly love the words for the beautiful things that they were. Pictures soared through my head like never before.
It was amazing.
See, I'm a pastor's daughter. I'm a good girl, I am; I know my Bible. My parents raised me to study the Word of God from a very young age, and I'm incredibly grateful for their patient teaching. But there are times when human instruction doesn't cut it, when a book or chapter or verse can't be comprehended unless God speaks in a special way. This was one of the special times.
I mean, look at these verses. It's not poetry. (I'm not too keen on poetry.) It's prose--lovely, picture-filled, emotive, vibrant prose breathed by the Creator himself. It's awe-inspiring.
Suddenly the mood has changed, has turned into fear and lamentation and a chill starts to spread.
And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea? ... The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more.
And the end. Tragedy. A city that would not give glory to the One who created it was reduced to a pile of rubble: a terror that never would be any more.
Are you shivering yet?
I have portions of that chapter copied in my notebook now. Doomed Tyrus has nothing to do with fourteenth-century Provence. I'm not writing about a city that rejected God; I'm not writing about a city at all. There are few, if any, bustling marketplaces in Color of the Sky, and the people concerned in my story don't trade in fine broidered linen or elephant tusks.
Yet the images, the sense, the mood, the overall whoosh (to use a cop-out onomatopoeia) that I get from reading Ezekiel 27 is just what I--and Margot--struggle to convey to the reader--and Fina--in Sky. I can see, and so can Margot. I can write, and Margot can speak. But to put into articulate speech the glory that can only be seen with the eyes--to give the feeling of being rained upon and not merely state that it is raining--that is the hard part.