Friday, January 4, 2013
Two Lagoons, This Afternoon
I went out rowing a mascareta this afternoon by myself with a single oar, in the open expanse of shallow water north of the Celestia vaporetto stop, between the cemetery island of San Michele and the large barena which, if you're on one of the giro città vaporetto lines, lies closest to you around the Bacini stop. Some days, when the tide is high, this barena--as barene are, by definition, prone to do--disappears almost completely beneath the water. Other days, like today, when it seems like an island all its own, one wonders why the ancient Venetians never chose to build it up and inhabit it.
On the last afternoon of 2012, when I was rowing in the same area, the water was so shallow as to force me to alter both my grip on the remo, or oar, and my rowing motion. It was less than a foot deep, and as I rowed I kept expecting it to deepen at some point, but it didn't. There was not another person visible on the lagoon--no work boats, no motor boats--just the vaporetti running along the north side of the city in the distance, and at one point I wondered how I'd get back to my remiera, or rowing club, if I made the mistake of leaning too heavily and too deeply into a stroke and snapped my oar off on the shallow bottom. I had no cell phone, and perhaps I was far enough out in the middle of the lagoon that no one on a passing vaporetto would notice me stranded out there, no matter how I waved my arms.
As I'm sometimes prone to anxiety, this is the kind of thing I like to worry myself with.
Of course, the simple fact was that, shallow as the water was, I could probably just have walked--or slogged--back to the remiera. At least until I reached the deep water of the Canale delle Fondamente Nove that runs right past it.
But perhaps it was somehow perversely more fun to imagine a greater danger. It elevated my heart rate, which is what a workout is supposed to do, right?
In any case, this afternoon, on my first row of this new year, I noticed something I was struck by on that last row of 2012: how one's row out in the direction of Burano almost seems to be done on an entirely different lagoon than one's row back in. The whole world, as you can see in the photo at top, is a symphony of blue as you make your way north at about 4:00 in the afternoon on a day like today.
But when you turn your boat around, back toward the city, it's not just that your view changes, but the whole color scheme as well. The peaceful blue haze and sheen of the trip outwards is replaced not just by the drama of the setting sun, but by a lagoon of oranges and blacks. So that standing in your boat, drifting in the same spot, you can easily imagine yourself in two different lagoons, so different is the vista when you look to the north from when you look to the south.
At the moment I'm afraid I can think of no conclusion to draw from this experience--and it's gotten too late in the evening for me to have any hope of finding one tonight--except, perhaps, that out in the lagoon, shallow though it may be, domesticated though it may be, the world seems almost magically to multiply.