Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Arrive in Venice with Robert Browning

We arrive in Venice on a Sunday afternoon at San Lucia and step out into the sunlight. Immediately we are awash in color and light and commotion and sound. Water taxis sputtering away, buildings so bright like pieces of candy, and this profound feeling of being alive overtaking us.
We haggle with the water taxi driver for a ride to the hotel, the Santa Elena, just on the tip of the edge of the city, and decide on 70 Euro. A luxury, yes? It is worth it. No slow moving ferry service for us. We want wind in our hair. We want to feel the rumble of engine beneath our feet. We want the cabin to ourselves and our memories.
The Grand Canal is brilliant, alit with domes and flowered balconies and picture perfect corners. It is like stepping into an immediate post card, like life has been photoshopped just for us, and that is fine. Avanti, gondolier.
On the smaller paddle gondolas, the men wear red ribbons in their hats and sing to one another songs of their grandfathers. I know my grandfather’s songs too. They come to me as if whispers on breezes. One said, It has been 16 years since you were here before. Who knows when you will return? Reach for it now. Reach.
The northern Italian sunlight casts a beautiful spotlight on the building colors which have faded like blankets left beside windows in living rooms. Something worn and lived in and familiar. It immediately invites you inside.
I have been telling my girls about Venice for months, how it is this old Italian city with a love of costumes and theater, masquerades and secrets. How the city, in true dramatic fashion, has slowly been sinking for years and that her best mysteries are below the sea.
They are so curious and flood me with questions. “Are we sinking now? Will the city go under water today? How come I can’t see the buildings falling into the sea?”
I hug them and hold on. The water taxi is powerful and pulls out of the Grand Canal into open water with big cruise ships and delivery boats. We are flying, purposeful, this electric current shooting forward.
These are the moments that Thoreau and Miller wrote about, that Keats and Byron knew. How one feels so alive, so charged, so perfect and impenetrable.
I can’t close my eyes. Usually with wind I want to stand on the highest peak and face Aeolus smiling, but not today. Though sun may blind me, it’s warmth is too sweet to look away. Though water is full of salt, I wish to drink it up. Though the buildings and the streets and the life is just beyond my fingers, I wish to grasp anyway. Of all these thoughts, of all these varied whispers coming to me, it is Robert Browning’s that comes to my heart fullest. Browning said, “A man’s grasp should exceed his reach, or what’s a heaven for?” Heaven arrived, indeed. Today, I am living proof.

No comments:

Post a Comment