Posts Tagged ‘tide’

A Venice Adventure 2001, Part 2

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The precipitation and cold we experienced throughout our first winter trip to Venice, ten years ago this month, made for perfectly miserable touring weather. Our folding umbrellas barely fit down some of the narrow alleys, some of which were scarcely three feet wide. When pedestrians met from opposite directions, they underwent an unspoken process of negotiation to determine who would lift and who would lower or tip their umbrellas as they passed.

Venetian Green

Despite the weather, my husband and I walked extensively around the city. We went to the stadium in Sestiere Elena at the southeast end and explored the Maritime Memorial Park, the first extensive green space we’d seen since our arrival. Aside from playground and lot-sized parks, the Royal Garden near Piazza San Marco, and a few tiny private gardens, most greenery seemed to be potted. In the residential districts of Costello and Elena, flowerpots of geraniums, cyclamen, and primrose adorned windowsills, in defiance of the crystalline clumps of residual snow still on the ground.

Fruit and fish vendors’ stalls served the local populace, as remnants of Carnivale decorations dripped overhead and bits of confetti dissolved into the cobbled walks.

We meandered past the cathedral of Giovanni e Paolo, through the heart of Venice, through the trim Ghetto district with its plethora of private gardens and the memorial plaques in the central campo to victims of the holocaust: “…We will not let your memory die.”

Gondolas sat covered along the canals, gleaming with rain. Occasionally we saw one in use, its occupants huddled under umbrellas, the gondolier silent or playing recorded music to avoid straining his voice in the cold air as he poled along. The signature striped shirt of the gondolier was as often tied around the shoulders as worn over other multiple layers for warmth. The city seemed a bit less romantic in such unfavorable weather.

We strolled through Dorsoduro to Piazza Roma, crossed the Ferrovia Bridge to the shops along Strada Nova, with prices as reasonable as any we’d seen in Venice. There we found some glassware and a chandelier to take home.

The morning before we left, we got up early to see Piazza San Marco once again. The water there was higher than we’d observed it before. The raised boardwalks in the piazza were in use by a few other early risers—committed joggers in their lycra tights, and photographers with tripods to help them catch the dusky light.

I took some last-minute pictures, too, as a kind of farewell, as we strolled along the promenade, which was now awash with the tide. I didn’t know if we’d ever have an opportunity to come back. And there was so much of Venice I wanted to remember.

If you enjoyed reading this account, you might want to also see part 1, posted February 1, 2011.

Cruising Alaska, Part 2 (Landscapes)

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Besides the wildlife, of which I wrote in Part 1, our trip to Alaska this past August provided me with plenty of material for landscape painting, as well.

My husband insists that the mountains of Alaska put the Rockies to shame. It was difficult for me to judge their heights except by their sharply delineated bands of color. As you can see in “Kenai Lily Pond” (#100905), bare and ice-glazed rock capped the peaks, while a misty green of mosses and lichens veiled the steep, unyielding slopes below; shrubs provided a belt of richer greens undergirding that, and only at the base lay the deep, dark band of forest. We were fortunate to see the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula on a rare, clear day. Clouds often hang heavy and low, hiding much of the glory of the high ridges and snow-encrusted hollows, and the gleaming glaciers flowing inexorably onward through the valleys they themselves carve out as they move on their course to the sea.

Undercut by the salt-laden ocean water, some of the glaciers, which may move as much as seven feet a day, calve frequently. The calves, or broken chunks, large or small, spewed water high and sent waves out for a considerable distance when they cracked and tumbled off the sheer surface of the glacier’s face. The freshly fractured surface glowed a brilliant turquoise blue, typical of the densely compressed interior, which, in a matter of days would fade, like the rest, to the pervading white of ice that had been exposed far longer to the atmosphere. The glaciers’ upper surface, I was surprised to discover, is not smooth but is creviced and eroded into hoodoos by the sun’s heat, by rain, and by unforgiving winds.

Yet not all the landscape seemed so severe. Rocky streams, fed by rain and melting snow, coursed down the mountainsides and cascaded into grand waterfalls. Lakes, reflecting their rim of grasses and moss and evergreens, as well as the overshadowing mountainsides, lay still and serene in the valleys. Lily pads clustered, like pubescent sunbathers waving urgently to friends but jealous of their prime basking positions and one another’s company, and zealous to absorb the sun’s scant attention through summer’s short season. Tall grasses rippled, wildflowers blossomed and faded, undisturbed by human cultivation. Dense rainforests near the ocean’s edge dripped with mosses and lichen and fungi of various forms. Second- and third-growth forest sprouted bowlegged roots to span older, decaying stumps, drawing nourishment not only from the soft, rich soil but from the remains of trees that had fallen long before.

Normally little affected by tidal action around my home in southwest Florida, I was fascinated to see, at these northern latitudes, how radically the ebbing tide changed the contours of the shoreline, revealing islands and tidepools that disappeared again as the hours swept past and the endless pendulum of come-and-go, ebb-and-flow reversed.