Saturday, December 20, 2014

3 Views of Sunset's "First Act", From a Boat Ride Home from School

All three of these images are taken looking west, toward the mainland, before the "2nd Act" of sunset began to the south
Sandro is disappointed when I don't pick him up from school in the boat, which, in truth, is most of the time, especially these days when the sun sets shortly after 4:30. As I use the boat to pick him up on one of his two long days of school each week, when he gets out at 3:45, this means it's typically pretty dark when we get home. And cold.

At this time of year the days disappear fast in the west, the light, color and special effects changing second-by-second as the sun slips downward like a rain drop on a car windshield. But hardly had the western horizon gone dark the other day and Sandro and I set off homeward in earnest from the detour we'd taken out behind the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, my camera safely stowed in its water-proof bag, than we noticed all at once behind us an encore, blooming in broad ragged folds of electric pink from the southern horizon beyond Isola Santo Spirito almost to the top of the sky's dome.

On many winter evenings, even at the close of days when the sun has seemed too weary and infirm to shuffle out from behind a thick gray velvet curtain of clouds, sunset still turns out to be a two-act performance, with more to come--and often the most drama of all--after you think the show's over. The sun has surely vanished below the horizon line, you think, and only then, after the big headlining star has left the building, so to speak, does some obscure chorus line of clouds in some forgotten quadrant of the sky--way off to the east over Lido, even--cast off their coverings and put on their own closing number, flushing all over with their effort.

It's almost hard to believe your eyes, which had just been adjusting to the featureless dark, yet the width of the lagoon before you mirrors the sky's flaming pageantry--as did, the night before last, Sandro's face.

Living here and seeing the sky every day and night you realize that the great architects of Venice did not, as is sometimes suggested, construct drama in a wide waste of water otherwise devoid of it, but in the face of the stiffest natural competition. The lagoon was not merely the flat, passive, perfect foil for architectural effort, but a potentially overwhelming stage whose own natural effects were likely to make any uninspired efforts of builders look very small indeed.

All of which are reasons for me to take the boat to pick up Sandro from school more often, even in the coldest weather, even in the supposed dead of winter. Or, if you're visiting the city, to seek out an unobscured vantage point at the end of each day from which to take in the sky's theater.


  1. Merci de partager de si beaux moments !
    C'est vraiment magnifique
    à bientôt
    Joyeuses fêtes

  2. Absolutely stunning always! :)

    1. Thank you very much, Jill. The sky does all the hard work, I only have to try not to get it all completely wrong.

  3. My gob has well and truly been smacked!

    Have I told you lately that your words paint a vivid picture to offer stiff competition to your photos?

    I hope you, Sandro and Jan have a lovely Christmas. Tell Sandro I wish I was sitting at your table, eating crab while he tells me about the cooking of the crustacean.

    1. Thank you, Yvonne--it's a fun challenge to sometimes try to describe the indescribable, knowing you have no chance of actually succeeding. Takes the pressure off.

      You'd be getting off easy if Sandro only regaled you with an account of the sad fate of the crab: these days, there's no end of topics he's likely to get started on. That was a memorable evening. We send our best holiday wishes to you, too, and look forward to seeing you in warmer weather.

  4. Incredible skies, thank you!

    You will soon be able to pick Sandro up again since the days are getting longer.

    I saw a wonderful sunset from san marco tonight, my kids were in awe.

    If you have the time I would love to meet you. Shoot me an e-mail. I will leave on the 6th. I want to take my kids to see San Pietro one of these days.

    1. There are some beautiful sunsets in CA, but the problem is that many places simply lack the clearance to see them from--too many trees or buildings or hills in the way. (And I sent you an email, finally.)