Archive for July, 2013

Hot News From Venice

veniceSo we’ve never been to Venice.

We need to visit my husband’s aging mother in Serbia, and want to spend some time with family and our pastor friends. Three of Sam’s cousins, whom we’ve never visited, live near Verona, an hour east of Venice. A slight detour on our usual direct flight to Belgrade sounded like fun.

It has been an education. Here are some highlights:

  • In general, Italians are friendly with a slight air of don’t-get-all-American-on-me.
  • July is one of the worst months to travel in Europe. Heat and tourists. You would think we would know this by now. Never mind. Off we go. It has been in the 90s every day with considerable humidity. There will be more whining before we’re done here.
From the Rialto Bridge, original site of the city.

From the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal, original site of the city.

  • Venice is truly a wonder. Building on the island began sometime in the 6th  century. It is a time capsule of history in its architecture and art treasures. How were such massive (and I do mean massive) amounts of stone and marble transported to the island in those early centuries? How did they drive the pilings? One church alone sits on 1 million of them. And every square inch is built on or paved with stone. There are no lawns in Venice, believe me.
  • It is a fascinating maze of narrow streets, canals, and bridges. No cars allowed. You walk or take a boat. I brought my walking clothes, as I always do, but they aren’t necessary. You’re going to walk and walk and walk. Exercise is one of the side benefits to getting lost in this city. Which we did.
Said narrow. Meant narrow.

Said narrow. Meant narrow.

  • It was hot.
  • The Grand Canal is everything you’ve ever heard. Lined with ornate palaces and churches built on the wealth of centuries of commerce, you can almost see the ghosts of merchants and nobles and the glitterati of Venetian society. I tried to ruminate properly as we glided down that ancient waterway on a water taxi, but my deep thoughts boiled away. As dozens of other tourists pressed in on every side.
  • No, we didn’t ride on a gondola. At 80 euros, it seemed like an expensive experience. You can stand on any number of charming bridges and, as they glide past, get a good look at each ornately decorated boat. While admiring the skill of the (generally) handsome gondoliers.
And there they are.

And there they are.

  • We visited, for example: The Basilica di San Marco. Originally built over the bones of the Apostle Mark in the 9th century, it is an immense Byzantine marvel. The problem with visiting places like St. Mark’s is sensory overload. Soaring arched spaces covered in gold. Stunning mosaic scenes from the Bible and lives of the saints. Huge bronze fixtures. Giant ornate pillars. (Pitiful understatements.) This one site should take up a day of your visit. And it’s one of dozens.
Grand Staircase at the Doge's Palace. Mars and Neptune up top.

Grand Staircase, Doge’s Palace. Mars and Neptune up top.There was a beheading on this staircase in 1355. Just so you know.

  • Truth is, tourism is the only industry left in this city. The harbor that once hosted vast numbers of ships from every corner of the globe bringing untold wealth to the island now hosts 3 million visitors a year from those same corners.
  • Taxes efficiently drain the wealth of small businesses in Venice, and Italy at large. Our pleasant host, Fausto, pays 16,000 euros a year in taxes on his modest hotel. Italy is headed the way of Greece. We told him the U.S. appears to be headed the way of Italy.
Here they come. Taken from a window of the Doge's Palace.

Here they come. Taken from a window of the Doge’s Palace.

As our train to Verona pulls away from the station, we see 4 cruise ships docked in the harbor. Enjoy, ye sweltering masses, enjoy!                                                                      

Farewell, Venezia.

Farewell, Venezia. 


Notes from a Long-term Marriage

“If I get married,” Audrey Hepburn once said, “I want to be very married.”

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought?

Funny. As of this day, I’ve been very married for 38 years. 38 years. I have to sit and look at that for a minute.

Okay. Here are a few things I have learned about marriage so far:

  • The idea of finding one person in all of the billions on earth to live with in reasonable contentment for the rest of your life is – what? –  irrational? Impossibly hopeful?  Or, as writer Elizabeth Gilbert describes it, a “divine accident”? It is, of course, all of those things. That’s the mystery and the miracle.
  • Marrying a person from another culture means you get to do a lot of cool traveling over the years. It also means seeing family far less than you’d like for your kids sake. It’s a tradeoff – one of many in this particular human construct.
  • We bring a lot of baggage into marriage. We may not know how to fight fair. A cleanie won’t be inclined to give up the struggle with a messie. We spend too much or are too tightfisted. In the secret pockets of that baggage we have pouting and immaturity and self-centeredness. Then we discover that marriage is a lifelong unpacking experience.
  • We may think that love is the coin of the realm in marriage. In my opinion, it’s probably the oxygen. Kindness is the currency of the relationship. Two people who practice kindness toward each other are building up a mutual bank account of lifelong pleasure.
  • Children are a wonder. Tiny little people, utterly dependent, landing in our married life with all their noise and paraphernalia. There they are, beautiful and expensive. And the kind of human beings they become depends to a shocking degree on you. You. That knowledge keeps us prayerful. And humble. I confess I still look at our three children and think: “Where did these fantastically wonderful adults come from?”
  • The best marriage advice we can give our children is the marriage we live in front of them.
  • Grandchildren are the grand payoff for having kids.
  • Marriage is the comforting presence of another human being with whom we forge, carve, hammer out a life. Broken places? Yes. Stress fractures? Sure. But the structure is sturdy. It shelters the two of us and the family flowering under its roof.

So, happy 38th to my wonderful Sam. Truth is, the success of our life together is due largely to you and the loving leadership you have provided me and our children. I love being very married to you.





%d bloggers like this: