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.
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.