|Setting sun seen from the north lagoon|
So it's very easy to forget about the lagoon, even if you are lucky enough to be here for longer than just a few days, or a week, or even a month. I do it myself all the time, until the chance (for example) to travel about the northern lagoon with some friends reminds me of how much I've been missing, and how large and fascinating the lagoon itself is: from the barrene--those low flat stretches of land that disappear and reappear with the changing tides--to the lightly populated islands close to the city (Vignole, Certosa), to those distant islands, looking so very unpopulated and unpromising when seen from a passing vaporetto going to or from Burano, that hide unseen within their interiors, along the overgrown banks of mazey waterways often too shallow for navigation, a host of residents living in conditions very much like those of the city's first settlers.
Seemingly less like a single island (even if they're named as such) than a cluster of puzzle piece islands, the residents of such places live in small houses built of wood, not stone, their yards delimited irregularly by water and wild overgrowth. Through open gates at the water's edge you glimpse their vegetable gardens. Above the flowering bushes that enclose their yards you see the tops of fruit trees (plums, cherries, even peaches, I think). which I'm told flourish at first and grow quickly, until their roots hit the first layer of salty subsoil and their height is stunted by the limited depth of good earth. Lining either side of the narrow waterways are the large wooden crates of soft-shell crab traps, each one hoisted or submerged between a pair of tall wooden poles--slenderer versions of the bricole to which boats are tied in the city.
It's an entirely different world out there, and away from the bulk and verticality of Venice, or even Burano, hours seem to go by differently than they do in the city: passing not, as one might imagine in such a watery place (and as the ancients put it), like that of a river or even slowly running stream, but settling gently and silently all around you--on the riotous vegetation and the vast still flat vistas beyond--like a soft sifting from above, becoming darkly opalescent in the day's last light.