The journey starts at Masset airport where the daily flight departs at 11:20 and the locals check in at 11:00. Security checks haven't made it to these parts. The only precaution is to close the door leading to the tarmac. Airport staff is more vigilant about things like wayward deer than terrorists. Just a few weeks ago, an incoming flight hit a doe on the runway. The accident made the front page of The Observer, rallying the community to cull anything four-legged in the vicinity.
Two juice boxes and one packet of Dad's cookies later and I'm in Vancouver. In a mere two hours, I've gone from heating rainwater on the woodstove for my morning bath to eating a French eclair at Fratelli's. I walk down Commercial Drive. I celebrate Thanksgiving with an eclectic group of friends including an architect, a plastic activist (of the live-without-plastic-for-a-year kind), and a carpenter. Close to midnight, we begin a mandolin singsong.
I walk down Commercial Drive. I am reunited with my Italian-jazz-musician husband after six months apart. We board a flight bound for Milan. In London-Gatwick, we wait eight hours for the final leg of the journey. We eat edamame-watercress salad and drink pomegranate spritzers from Marks and Spencer's. We watch the world stream out of Arrivals.
After an airport shuttle, subway, and train, we walk towards Via Scapardini 9 where my inlaws await. It's always during these jet-lagged, hazy moments that things become clearer. A week has passed since I left my off-the-grid refuge, and I am drawn to the profusion of surrounding electrons like a moth to the light. The Italians, especially, seem charged to the hilt. Women clip down the cobblestones on stilettos. Voices rise around me like flocks of chattering birds. I am drawn to the lit windows of pasticcerie piled high with extravagant creations of flour and sugar. I am drawn to the caffes, to the sparkle of glasses against mirrored walls.
We walk, the wheels of our luggage trolley joining in the cacophony. As we reach the Chiesa della Madonna del Carmine and I gaze up at the floodlit statue of the Madonna with her arms upraised to the night, I realize, even though I haven't slept for twenty-four hours, how alive I feel.
The feeling continues. It continues through meal after meal of dishes curated by an Italian housewife. The sharpest pecorinos. The ripest persimmons. "Mangia! Mangia!" my father-in-law insists. And I do. I eat. And I eat some more. I fill myself with the energy of an entire country fuelled by the quest for La Dolce Vita.
And I find la dolce vita in reflections cast upon Venetian canals. People who think Venice is all tourist and no substance should go there in late October and sit in the Sestiere San Polo. A courtyard. A fountain. Houses fitting into one another. Geraniums spilling down thousand-year-old walls. A woman opening green-painted shutters to tilt her face towards the sun.
If that's not enough, get lost crossing tiny arched bridges and ducking through porticos. Drink a cappuccino beside a floating produce market. Realize you haven't touched a computer for a week and you don't care. All along, you could have been doing this instead. You could have been hanging your laundry across a canal yelling "Buongiorno!" to your neighbour.
For a few glorious days, I covet the Venetian life. An off-the-grid cabin in the woods on a remote archipelago seems as wrong as serving the espresso before the dessert. How could I ever have lived anywhere without marble tiles and frescoes? I realize the Venetians managed all this splendour long before any sort of electrical grid existed. Why is it I haven't even managed to sew a pair of curtains?
Such a question lingers all the way back to Milan. It arises over and over while vineyards, and the place where Romeo met Juliette flash past the windows of the train. In this frame of mind, even the graffiti inspires me--Ti amo tanto(I love you so much)scrawled in black across white stucco. I love you too, I feel like calling across the tracks.