FUEL Calendar. Addy Award Winner (Regional and National) 2016
I had the privilege of being one of 12 writers featured in the FUEL 2016 calendar, an annual project that celebrates the Rochester, NY creative community and showcases the capabilities of Cohber Press. Our charge was to hand-write a letter around the theme of "lost and found" which was then made into a custom-printed desk calendar. My month was November, so I wrote about being lost on a cold, wet day in Venice.
Lufthansa lost my luggage!!! I arrived here yesterday in abysmal weather with nothing but the clothes on my back. Venice was doing her winter worst: torrential rains, gale force winds and aqua alta, the high tide that floods the city this time of year. Of course, I could not find my rental apartment. House numbers here are maddeningly out of sequence, which to me is further proof that Venice isn’t a city but a dream that follows its own logic. My house is in the neighborhood of Giardini, where the city meets the sea. I dragged my miserable self along the stormy promenade, jetlagged, waterlogged, and exhausted to the point of tears. There was water, water everywhere--in the swollen canals, in the sea spilling into my shoes, in the restless, reflecting surfaces of the lagoon. Hopelessly lost, I sloshed around in circles like a rudderless boat.
Suddenly, I heard, “Signora!! It’s aqua alta—where are your boots?” A tiny old woman appeared at my side, dwarfed by a giant black umbrella, a cheerful little crow of a person all dressed in black. I told her I was lost, and she said, “You’re not lost. You've just temporarily misplaced yourself.” With a surprisingly firm grip for her age, she took my arm and led me through the flooded streets. Chattering away in Italian, she recounted a Venetian travelogue of suspended time: how her wedding dress had been designed by Fortuny of the palest pleated silk. How she once met Hemingway, “a most unpleasant man!” How Casanova was really not all that and she never understood the attraction. And did I hear the scandal? Mussolini is hiding his pregnant mistress in the insane asylum out in the lagoon! Finally she said “arriva!” and delivered me to my door. But when I turned to thank her, she was already gone, the faint outline of her umbrella slipping back into the mist.
Was she real or imagined? You never know in this ensorcelled town. I had lost my way, but Venice found me as she always does. Here in a city where the past is present and there is no such thing as time, I felt grateful for kind strangers, or perhaps, angels fallen back to earth, and vanishing.