Winter sunset


The Befana has been and gone, the Christmas decorations are stored or lost or thrown away, and only a few hardy addicts are still eating panettone, making the most of the two-for-one discounts the stores always offer in an effort to get the things off their shelves and make room for the galani coming up for Carnival.

January is a superb month here.  Cold and empty.  By which I mean empty of the usual battalions of tourists, empty of racket and clutter, not empty of interest or beauty.  The lagoon, possibly even more than the city itself, is brimming with enchantment in the winter. Please do not mark your calendar to come to Venice in January. I will hunt you down and slay you.

The day before yesterday I was walking along the brink of the lagoon toward the southern end of the Lido, toward an area called the Alberoni.  I was on my way to perform a specific task but the reason I was walking instead of riding the bus was that I wanted to savor the moment.  Buses and cars prevent savoring in much the same way that an inner-tube prevents you from sinking. It’s against the laws of physics, or the laws of something.

Of course looking toward the setting sun is spectacular, but the scene is no less beautiful looking away from it.

At this point I was hoping to give you a few filaments of poetry on sunset — not written by me, God forbid.  Written by some genius.  A few of them worked the angle of comparing sunset to death, but that wasn’t even remotely related to the mysterious magic I was watching. It was like being able to see a sigh.

In any case, even geniuses can only approximate a rough translation of the transparent, transforming loveliness of this silent interval because they are forced to use words. Even Hawaiian words, which are mostly vowels, are too rigid to express either a winter sunset or a summer dawn. As a writer it pains me to acknowledge that, but it’s just the way words are.

Speaking of words, there are a good number of them which describe various phases of sunset — twilight, dusk, gloaming, nightfall, crepuscule — and they all have precise definitions.  But I couldn’t find a word for what was happening in front of me.  So, no words.

However, if I were forced to describe it, I’d say that the panorama looked as if it were made of  mother-of-pearl reproduced as glass.

But happily, I’m not forced to describe it.


I wonder if the fish know it's this beautiful on the other side of the surface. They probably just know that the lights are going out.


At this point I had to go inside, otherwise I'd still be there.


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Categories : Nature


  1. Yvonne says:

    “It was like being able to see a sigh.” Oh, my goodness, woman, what a poetic line, and that describes it so vividly, a happy/poignant sigh.

    Your photos are so good, so delicate. Thank you for being there at the right time.
    Yvonne recently posted..The Blessing of the Animals

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I’m just happy there are people like you and Mary (and undoubtedly others) who have eyes to see these wonders, even if only through my little snapshots. You all keep me going.

  2. mary klestadt says:

    Oh wow – how absolutely breathtakingly glorious.

    We loved our January in Venice some years ago – but have recently settled for late-November-early December (and sometimes Christmas too), as it’s also lovely and empty then too (and I get back to Australia in time to see the tennis!)

    However if you tempt me with pictures like that – January might just have to climb back up the list.

    Perhaps the answer is to do as Yvonne – and stay for 3 months!

  3. Linda says:

    Thank you for this soothing post. Nostalgia…

  4. Carol @ Best cookware reviews
    Twitter: cookwarerev

    WOW! my jaw just dropped and hit the floor 🙂 very soothing pictures, it is relaxing to the soul

    Thanks for sharing Erla