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Dreaming in Venice
The Grand Canal through my eyes

The woman at our pension in Florence hoped that we would arrive in Venice during the day.  “It’s like a dream,” she promised.

It was near lunchtime as the train from Florence crossed the lagoon from the modern city. Water like a mirror spread out from the train as far as I could see, as if the train skated across the glassy surface like a water bug.  Ahead of us, the old city rose from the water like a magician’s illusion.

We pulled into the train station and disembarked.  The station was like any European station, full of people streaming off the train in a single direction.  I was momentarily disappointed.  There were windows to change money or buy espresso or get junk food or book a hotel room.  We passed those by without a second glance.  The sense of having stepped into a mirage evaporated as we dealt with wheeling our suitcases up a short flight of stairs.

At the crest of the stairs, we faced another flight of steps back down to the surface of the water.  From the threshold, it seemed again as if we’d strayed into a dream.  The Grand Canal stretched perpendicularly in front of us, bustling with vaporettos and low, narrow speedboats and a gondola or two for local color.  The houses across the canal looked made of wedding cake, heavily decorated with frosting swags and columns and nosegays.

My head swam in the glare and humidity.  I fumbled my sunglasses on, but I really didn’t want to miss a moment.  My chest was filled with that sense of magic I felt on walking into New Orleans in Disneyland, except that was an illusion designed to overwhelm you with wonder and this was the real thing.  I felt like a child again, in a hurry to rush in every direction at once so I could explore it all at once.

Luckily, Mason kept his head.  “Let’s figure out which waterbus we need,” he suggested, leading me down the steps toward the bus stops.  “The hotel shouldn’t be very far away.  Then let’s have lunch and go out to your graveyard.”

I appreciated his level-headedness.  If I’d been alone, I would’ve bought a lemon granita from a cart by the water, sank down onto a marble step in the shade of an olive tree, and been content to watch the people.  But the island of St. Michael, where Venetians had been buried for centuries, was the goal of our visit.  It was better to be focused.  We only had three partial days in Venice and there was clearly a lot of ground to cover.

I pulled the suitcases together into a little cluster at the edge of the canal while Mason figured out the transit system and bought our tickets.  Something iridescent swirled in the green water, spelling out runes that broke apart before I could decipher them.  I watched the rainbows play across the wavelets and listened to the music playing in my head.