A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day, “why do you live where you live?” I’ve always lived in little corners of the world; a peninsula hanging into the Atlantic ocean, or the Gulf Coast, a small village in Vermont and now a little enclave of artists in the desert. I love these odd little places tucked away from the rest of the world. They have a magical quality for me, whether they be on land or sea, that makes where I live exciting and inspiring and not just the place where I rest my head at night. I finished reading Stopover in Venice and picked up Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd. Although I have never been, Venice appears to have that fairy tale quality. A city built on water, creating its own personality and infrastructure, that appears so uplifting even while it sinks deeper into the sea. Ackroyd’s beautiful and accessible descriptions of Venice make reading about this foreign city even more enlightening.
The city was built upon water by celestial decree. It was a miracle, in itself, to build upon the sea. Thus it became a city of miracles. It was a predestined spot, a providential site. Everywhere in the Venetian chronicles there is a great and shining image of the city. Venice became part of the history of human redemption. Its divine origin was attested by its perfect constitution, enduring for a thousand years, and even by its mercantile supremacy. In paintings by Venetian artists God the Father and the Holy Spirit preside over Saint Mark’s Square. On the Rialto bridge are carved the figures of Gabriel and the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Venice was idealized beyond any recalcitrant historical fact or inglorious episode.