October 19, 2015
Seven tiny islands connected by bridges make up Murano, famous for its glassworks. A ten-minute motoscafo ride from Venice, Murano is an easy hop for tourists. They start arriving in the morning and during the day you all but hear the delicate glass rattling as wave after wave of visitors clomp from one glass shop to the next. By late afternoon, the tide of tourists has almost completely ebbed. We arrived as the sun was lingering on the western sky getting ready to set, and the silence was flowing back into calli and seeping into campi.
With the last rays of the sun glazing the canal-side houses rosy gold, my husband and I walked aimlessly. It was our first visit and we wanted Murano to reveal itself to us on its own terms, so we strolled in silence and without a specific destination, tuning our bodies to the day’s end slowing tempo, to the life beneath the picture postcard Murano, the place I had chosen for us to celebrate his upcoming 60th birthday.
The briny smell of the Venetian Lagoon tickled our noses. I tasted a delicate sweetness in the sunset breeze. Soft sounds of everyday life — footsteps, conversations, front doors closing behind people going home —enfolded us. In just a few steps we were hand in hand in a self-contained moment of being exactly where we wanted to be. We could have been tiny figures inside one of the delicate glass Christmas ornaments in the windows of the shops we passed. I smiled giddily at my husband, and he smiled back, indulgently.
A soccer ball landed — plunk! — near his feet. He saved the ball from rolling into the canal and threw it back to the kids playing soccer on the fondamenta, bounded by houses on one side and a canal on the other. They grinned their thanks. They were untroubled by this close call and continued to kick the ball around the slender flagstone course. The next kick sent the ball on the deck of a moored boat. One of the players sprang on board and retrieved it, and their game continued.
My husband and I smiled at each other then resumed our silent walk. A little later, I caught a glimpse of the ball floating in the middle of the canal, a paean to youth defying destiny, daring to play soccer in a place visitors admire as a timeless still life. In another town, the ball would have hit a garage door or rolled down an alley. In Murano, it splashed in the canal and floated with the tide towards the open water of the lagoon.
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