Snip,snip…the End of an Era

(https://www.ihadcancer.com/h3-blog/07-13-2015/20-inspirational-cancer-quotes-for-survivors-fighters-caregivers

 

Snip, snip. Within 30 seconds it was over. I had just entered the room and wasn’t even paying attention to the surgeon as I spoke to his nurse standing beside me. As we were talking, the surgeon gently pulled the collar of my tee shirt down below the stitches on my upper right chest, snipped twice with his scissors and it was done. For me, it was the end of an era; my chemo port had been removed from the site two weeks earlier by the same doctor and now all I had left was a red scar.

I was almost disappointed at how uneventful the procedure was. For me the removal of my chemo port symbolized so much. I was expecting a bit more of a production. Perhaps lying on the patient bed, being draped around the site of the stitches, having the doctor sit beside me while he carefully pulled out the threads. But, no, there he stood, grinning at me. I’m not sure whether he was grinning because he had tricked me, or because he was happy for me, or both. I like to think the latter.

Anyone who is a cancer survivor can vividly remember having to endure certain rites of passage as a cancer patient. For many of us, getting a chemo port inserted into the chest area signals the beginning of the dreaded chemo treatment period. It is put there to make things easier; so that each time blood must be drawn for analysis, it can be done more easily through the port than by inserting needles into the arm, hand or wherever else may be necessary to deliver the chemo cocktail. It is, in fact, very helpful in streamlining that process. It seems a small thing, but it makes a big difference in enduring the various ordeals a chemo patient must endure.

It does require attention. Following two months of chemo treatment, accompanied by daily radiation doses, I was told to come back to the oncology unit every 4 to 6 weeks to have my chemo port “flushed” so it would continue to be viable. I did not dread those visits; the worst was already over. In fact, I looked forward to seeing the oncology staff who become so important to me. They are the “hands-on healers.” And besides, I had been through the worst of it, so this port-flush stuff was “easy peasy.”

It has been four years since cancer was first identified. It was several months later that the port was inserted.  For four years I have lived with a small bump on my chest that most people probably wouldn’t even notice. That small device had been punctured dozens of times in the past four years, and then one day it stopped doing its job. It could still be “flushed” but it was getting quite difficult and sometimes impossible to draw blood through the port. My oncologist said it was time to have it out.

I am not the first cancer survivor to bond with her port. Others have told me they keep it in because they are superstitious. Mine was kept in as a precaution. Because my cancer was so advanced and had metastasized, I was considered high risk even though there was no sign of cancer in my body two months after my treatments ended. There was a very strong possibility, however, that the cancer would come back and I would need the port so I was given a two-year period to keep it in. Somehow another year and a half passed and it was still there.  It had become part of me.

Then during one recent visit, my oncologist said, “Why do you still have the port?” I replied, “Because you haven’t yet told me to get it out.” Then I finally made the appointment to  have it removed early this summer.

So last week I had the followup visit to have the stitches removed. I celebrated by having  lunch with a local friend who is also a cancer survivor. We both know how lucky we are to be alive. She’s had cancer three times. Sometimes it’s good to talk about these things with someone who has been on a similar journey. And, so, one of the most terrifying and stressful times of my life symbolically ended not with a bang, but with a snip, snip.

Advertisements

It’s So Hot ….

photo above: https://www.occupy.com/article/first-signs-global-climate-change-immigration-crisis-are-here#sthash.bb2ie5Hz.dpbs

We’ve all heard this statement at one time or another:
“It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.”

Here are some of my  thoughts regarding the heat wave we’re currently experiencing in the northeast.

It’s so hot… I haven’t left my house (with AC) in two days except to water the outdoor plants
It’s so hot… sunscreen melts right off my face
It’s so hot… the birds are lined up at the bird bath to take a refreshing dip
It’s so hot… it’s too hot to go to the beach
It’s so hot… tiny ants are coming into the house for relief
It’s so hot… even the weeds are wilting
It’s so hot… the AC is constantly running (and so is the bill)
It’s so hot… the bees aren’t showing up for the newly blossoming bee balm
It’s so hot… I’m thinking of putting on a bathing suit to go for a swim (at my age that’s an act of courage)
It’s so hot… we’re eating only fruit and salads to keep our calorie intake lower
It’s so hot… even thunderstorms don’t cool things off
It’s so hot… the leaf blowers are silent in the neighborhood

There’s an article in the NY Times Sunday Week-in-Review section (July 1), Fleeing a Warmer World (by Lauren Markham), about how drought caused by climate change is driving vast numbers of people to leave their homes in Central America and in desert areas of Africa. People who have lived for centuries in these areas can no longer subsist: they are desperate for ways to feed their families and so they are on the move. This is not the first time migration on this scale has happened in the history of the world. The Abandonment of Chaco Canyon in our own Southwest, for example, believed to have occurred about 1150, has long been attributed at least partially to a drought that literally drove the Anasazi cliff-dwellers from their homes, never to return.


White House, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
(https://ridb.recreation.gov/images/80267.jpg)


Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon
(http://archeyes.com/pueblo-bonito/)

In the period between A.D. 1125 and 1180, very little rain fell in the region. After 1180, rainfall briefly returned to normal. From 1270 to 1274 there was another long drought, followed by another period of normal rainfall. In 1275, yet another drought began. This one lasted 14 years.

When this cycle of drought began, Anasazi civilization was at its height. Communities were densely populated. Even with good rains, the Anasazi were using their land to its limits. Without rain, it was impossible to grow enough food to support the population. Widespread famine occurred. People left the area in large numbers to join other pueblo peoples to the south and east, abandoning the Chaco Canyon pueblos and, later, the smaller communities that surrounded them. Anasazi civilization began a long period of migration and decline after these years of drought and famine. By the 1300s, it had all but died out in Chaco Canyon.

Was drought alone the only factor in the mass abandonment of the pueblos? Some archaeologists now believe that other factors — religious upheaval, internal political conflict, or even warfare — may have combined to exacerbate the effects of the drought. Whatever the root causes of the famine were, the archaeological evidence clearly shows it was devastating to the Anasazi.
(https://www.learner.org/exhibits/collapse/chacocanyon.html)

In the early 1980s when I was a young mother with a newborn and a toddler, we lived in a simple ranch style house with no AC. I remember the summer days of extreme heat all too well. I sat in the backyard under our large oak tree with my feet in a kiddie pool where my toddler son sat while I tried to nurse my baby who was literally stuck to my overheated, sweating body. I had never felt hotter in my life until now. I distinctly remember thinking “so this is how the poor people of the world live; at least those close to the equator.” Escaping the heat was all I could think of during heat spells and we had plenty of them in the ’80s. It’s no wonder people are again migrating across deserts and oceans in search of a drop of water, relief from the extreme heat and a place more hospitable to raising a family. If I were them, I’d be doing the same.

Walt Whitman and Thoughts of My Dad

I am fortunate to live near the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association on Long Island, NY,  the actual place where Whitman was born. I feel fortunate because whenever I attend a poetry reading or other event there, I always come away feeling that my life has been enriched. Sunday’s visit was no exception.

Walt Whitman, Wikipedia

The WWBA has selected as its theme for this year, Walt Whitman Celebrating Women. Because Whitman is commonly regarded as having been homosexual (even though there is little concrete evidence to prove that assumption), the decision by the WWBA to focus on his relationships with, and high regard for women,  came as something of a surprise to me. I was curious to learn more.

Sunday’s event was a lecture/discussion about the role played by Whitman in the lives of women who were his contemporaries. The lecture  was presented by Professor Carol Singley of Rutgers University-Camden who has spent a major part of her academic career doing research on and writing about Elizabeth Wharton who happened to be a supporter of  Whitman.

Edith Wharton, Wikipedia

Professor Singley  is a delightful speaker as well as an internationally known scholar of Edith Wharton and other literary figures of the late 19th century. She is someone I wish I’d had the good fortune to meet in my own undergraduate years as an English major.  In her lecture today she cited many references to Whitman’s poetry and prose that reflect his view of women as equal to men and his desire to see them treated as such in the public realm. In Whitman, Wharton found a kindred spirit.  In her essay, “Sketch of an Essay on Walt Whitman” she wrote:

Particularly valuing his ability to observe “Nature as a seer, not a Naturalist” (“Sketch”), she found another soul who lived in reality and “in dreams’ projections” (Leaves, 243). Whitman gave her permission to be an artist, to sing her individual song. Above all, he provided a model of a self-made man, something Wharton ironically liked to think herself. Her autobiography, which borrows its title from his, A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads, shows her trying to articulate the forces-physical, emotional, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic..,-that shaped her personality. Her memoir’s truncated title, A Backward Glance, which almost begs the reader to place Wharton’s vision alongside Whitman’s as an American original, perhaps comments on the different, though related, roads she saw them travelling: his, imaginatively solid beneath his feet; hers, in recollection. 

(Edith Wharton ‘s “Sketch of an Essay on Walt Whitman ” by Susan Goodman; Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, 1992)

I also appreciated her references to a long list of authors from the mid to late 1800s, including Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper) and Kate Chopin (The Awakening), whose novels used the suppression of women as their jumping off point. For me the lecture was an opportunity to revisit some authors I had read long ago and to learn more about them and the poet whose vision has changed my own life.

What I was not prepared for was an epiphany I had during the followup Q and A session. There was some back and forth discussion about how Whitman served as a new kind of mentor for the masses. He appreciated nature in the broadest sense, good health in the wholistic sense, and he celebrated the freedom to express one’s innermost desires and feelings. Someone asked: “What about Whitman’s father? What role did he play in his life?”  The Executive Director responded that she felt he played a significant role as a mentor to his son. She referred to Whitman’s father as a master carpenter who through his work as a builder (he built their home on Long Island) served as a role model for Whitman through his mastery of his skills, his creativity and his fortitude which he applied to  “building”  a home and a life for his family.

This brief discussion of the role Whitman’s father may have played in his development set off bells in my head. I shared with the audience that my own father, who had eight children, an eighth-grade education and a youth of deep poverty in the rural south, built our family home himself, just like Whitman’s father.  Forever after he was a role model for me of independence, confidence, hard work, innate wisdom and devotion to family.  I realized I had never quite thought of him in the role of mentor until today.

Ironically, in seeking to learn more about Whitman’s relationship to women, I also learned something new about my relationship with my father. This revelation, I believe, would have made Whitman very happy.

 

 

 

 

https://moreart4all.wordpress.com/posts/

Florence…is not Venice!

(Above photo: https://dreamofitaly.com/explore-italy/florence-2/)

My daughter and I traveled to Italy in late April to celebrate her 35th birthday. I recently wrote several posts about Venice, our first stop in Italy and today I’m moving on to Florence, our second stop on our tour.

Florence is not Venice!  For me, these two cities couldn’t be more different.  As soon as you arrive in the open vista of the Grand Canal of Venice you feel “the sky’s the limit.”  It’s such a magical, beautiful and restless place that anything seems possible.  Florence is a much more secretive place; its secrets are well kept behind its walls.

I visited Florence nearly 45 years ago; needless to say, much has changed.  My memories of Florence are of a  small city almost like a village, with a unique dome-shaped cathedral at its center, lots of crazy Italian drivers zooming around the city center in their hot sports cars, and of the Ponte Vecchio where young, attractive hippies displayed  their crafts to tourists visiting the bridge.  I remembered a much quieter, less crowded city. This time I found the scene on the bridge a little too noisy and much too crowded for my taste. My only other memory of Florence  is almost being locked out of my hostel because I returned so late one night.  I was given a cot in the hallway to sleep on!  Oh, I almost forgot.  I also took a bus ride to Fiesole one day, just to have a glimpse of the beautiful Tuscan countryside, where I met two Greek medical students who spoke no English (and I no Greek) and who showed me the local sites.

This time my lodgings were a solidly middle-class hotel, Hotel Adler Cavalieri, a vigorous twenty-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio along the Via della Scala, dotted with hotels.  And I went to bed a lot earlier this time around! Upon our arrival at the hotel my daughter and I asked for a recommendation for dinner and were given the name of a small place across from the Pitti Palace.

Our first stop of the day was a tour of the Uffizi Gallery. My son insisted that this be our first stop in Florence as it holds a concentration of some of the most famous  Italian artists during the Renaissance such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Filippo Lippi, Giotto, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci. What is even more amazing is that the building (uffizi means offices in Italian) was constructed for the sole use of the Medici family members who actually spent very short periods of time there.

My daughter has had a copy of Botticelli’s painting of The Birth of Venus hanging over her bed for a decade so she was eager to see the original canvas.  But she was even more fascinated by the discovery of another of his paintings, La Primavera, and so was I.

Uffizi Gallery

We left the Uffizi amazed at its riches and entered the Boboli gardens that surround it.  As we walked in the shade of the cypress trees that overhang a path that is centuries old, I tried to absorb what we had just seen; it was overwhelming.

Our walk to dinner required that we next walk across the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio, so off we went. It was a landmark I recalled with some detail.  I had no recollection of the streets that led to the bridge, so nothing seemed familiar. It’s possible I had stayed somewhere much closer 45 years ago.  When we finally reached the banks of the Arno, I could see the Ponte Vecchio in the distance.  The view included a stretch of a walkway along the Arno and a view of the hills behind the old city which I did not recall seeing on my first visit.

Alas, when we finally reached the Ponte Vecchio, it was swarming with tourists. It was late in the afternoon, so most of the jewelry stalls were already closed.

The Ponte Vecchio is now well known for its gold and jewelry merchants who sell their wares on the bridge in small, quaint stalls. It was hard to believe it was once where the butchers of the town executed (no pun intended) their skills.

“…in 1593 duke Ferdinand I decided to allow only goldsmiths and jewelers to hold shops on Ponte Vecchio because former tenants produced too much garbage and foul smells.” http://www.bridgesdb.com/bridge-list/ponte-vecchio/

With so many tourists crowding the bridge amid a circus-like atmosphere, and in the heat of the day, I did not experience the same charm I had felt on my first visit. A small group of local musicians we stumbled upon further along the bridge helped erase that feeling.

We soon found the restaurant, Olivia, which is one of Europe’s new “green” restaurants with a vegetarian non-GMO menu and farm-to-table produce.  The woman who served us turned out to be the proprietor and heiress of an olive oil producer in Tuscany.  This was her first venture in the restaurant business and she was absolutely charming and accommodating.  I no longer remember what we ate, but I was sure we would probably not have a better meal during our stay.

Just opposite the restaurant across a very narrow street was the Pitti Palace.  We found its facade to be rather ugly since what could have been an expansive front lawn was completely paved over making it seem quite uninviting on this very warm day.  After seeing the gorgeous waterfront palazzos along the Grand Canal in Venice, this was a disappointment.

After our sumptuous meal, we walked back to our hotel.  On the way, to refresh ourselves after a rather warm day, we stopped in a piazza to sample the gelato. We spied a high table with two high, metal bar stools and headed for them.

As I mounted my stool it slid out from under me on the cobblestones and suddenly, there I was, flat on my bum! Other than being humiliated and a bit in shock I was ok (thank goodness). One onlooker said, “il gelato es intacto!” It was true; I had managed to hold on to my gelato and it was, indeed, still intact and delicious!

It was getting late and there was nothing I could do to top my gelato performance, so we wearily headed back to our hotel. The final 10 minutes of our walk were  agonizing for me; after so much walking in Venice, my dogs were tired. Fortunately, Hotel Adler Cavalieri was very welcoming and it was time to hit the sack!

(http://www.hoteladlercavalieri.com/photogallery/)

Next week: Another day in Florence

Grim News Inspires Gratitude

It’s been a week of unusually bad news. Not the “what did Trump do now” kind of news; not the “volcanic eruption kills 500 in a small village in….” kind of news . This was the week that two famous people who seemed like they “had it all” chose to commit suicide.

I was not an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain, altho’ I liked his Parts Unknown tv program whenever I watched one of the episodes.  I knew nothing about his personal life but I enjoyed his on-the-edge philosophy and his omnivorous gusto. Kate Spade wasn’t really on my radar much either because I am not a person who pays much attention to fashion. I do remember my 16-year-old son (now 35) telling me that some of the girls in his high-school class (of some means) were infatuated with the brand. I knew nothing about her personal life either.

This morning while indulging in my favorite pastime…reading the New York Times at leisure… I delved into the news coverage about their recent deaths.  I wanted to know “why.” From what I read, it seemed that Bourdain was chasing demons for much of his life. But he kept that darker side from the public, and wisely so. He was enormously talented, energetic, irreverent and driven…not an easy way to live. He seemed to  channel much of his angst into whatever work he appeared to be doing at the time.  That approach seemed to work, most of the time. And then it didn’t.

Kate Spade was equally talented in a very different way and also very driven.  A person who “came out of nowhere” to make her stamp in the world of fashion and then became rich is,  by definition, a taste setter and go-getter. Although her life seemed almost “normal” in comparison to Bourdain’s edgy journey,  she, too, seemed to channel her hyper-energy into her work. And she also chose not to share her dark side. Until she did.

While sitting on my patio on a gorgeous sunny day,  I contemplated what I could learn from their deaths. What I came up with was “gratitude.” I have had no more joy or no fewer challenges than the next person. My 35-year-old daughter has suffered five open-heart surgeries and is now struggling to make sense of her life; my 36-year-old son who had cancer at 25 and now has a promising career,  is now struggling with his partner to have a child. I had fourth-stage metastasized cancer and am lucky enough to still be alive and cancer-free three years later. My husband, who is in better health, works hard to be a good provider. Together we have achieved a certain level of material comfort in our lives, but it did not come easily. Both of us came from working-class families who did not have an education beyond high school, so we were pretty much on our own when breaking through middle-class boundaries. Our journey through life has had some extremely challenging moments, but there have been rewards along the way.

I am extremely grateful for the life I now have. I am grateful that there were treatments available for me and my children that were not available in the past, and have enabled us to continue to live full,  meaningful lives. I am grateful that after a long struggle with unsatisfying work,  I was able to land a job as a teacher in my mid-40’s that offered me the opportunity to save for the future and purchase a comfortable home. I am grateful that I live in a very beautiful spot on the North Shore of LI near where I lived as a child, a place that allows me to enjoy my love of nature in the nearby wetlands and woods. I am grateful that despite my mounting physical annoyances I can still take a walk around the pond in my local park or a vacation in Europe. I am grateful I can still read to my heart’s content as that has always been one of my favorite indulgences. I am grateful that I have cultivated lifelong friendships that continue to sustain me as life becomes more challenging.

In full disclosure, my own life has been a struggle of sorts. I battled severe depression in my late twenties and did not have the resources or support I needed at the time. There was a year in my life that I had such anxiety I suffered from acute insomnia. But I am one of the lucky ones. I fought my way through it, married and had children and a career.

Antidepressants have been part of my life for a long while and will probably continue to be necessary for the remainder of it. I am not ashamed of that fact, but wish I had access to them sooner. I also wish that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had the same outcome I have had. But just as their lives were more “successful” than mine and had more impact than mine, clearly their demons were more powerful than mine and they succumbed.

Today I feel sorrow for those who struggle with mental illness and eventually are overwhelmed by it and a deep sense of gratitude for my simple, ordinary life.

Saying Goodbye to Venice…the Second Time Around

(Prints of Ugo Baracco’s etchings (see above) of Venice are available at Gallery 71, NYC)

Our third and final day in Venice was about being tourists. During our first two days my daughter and I had seen the Grand Canal of Venice and its palazzos from the vaporetto several times on our way to and from certain sites. We had been to the roof-top viewing platform of the T Fondasco dei Tedeschi (a department store) to enjoy an aerial view of the Grand Canal and a panoramic view of the city.  We had explored neighborhoods  I had not seen on my first visit to Venice ten years ago.

Rooftop view from T Fondaco dei Tedeschi (Trip Advisor)

Now it was time to focus on the main attractions of Venice: Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges Palace.  We had signed up for a tour of the Piazza and the Cathedral and Doges Palace on that final morning. As I stood in the Piazza San Marco with my daughter I tried to absorb the experience on a cellular level, thinking I would probably never get back to Venice.

Although you can remember certain details and have certain images in your mind of a place you have visited, you can never really reproduce the actual experience of being there…which is why we travel to have the real experience. The light will never be the same; your excitement will never be the same. The excited buzz of the tourists standing in the piazza, trying to take it all in, is impossible to recreate. This is both the appeal and frustration of travel: we are all just passing through. The experience cannot be packaged and brought home with us. This is what makes travel so special.

I was excited about revisiting St. Mark’s cathedral and seeing its amazing, unique frescoes on both the inside and outside of the cathedral made from tiny gold-leafed tiles that reflect light in the way only pure gold can.  The melding of eastern and western architectural and artistic elements within the cathedral reinforces the importance of Venice as the crossroads of the world in its time. The multiple domes atop the cathedral distinguish it from other the pointed arches of other major European cathedrals.

The ubiquitous statues of St. Mark and the symbol of Venice, the winged lion, present in the Plaza San Marco and throughout the city serve to remind us of the uniqueness of  Venice.

I enjoyed revisiting the palatial rooms of the Doges Palace, the seat of Venetian government, and once again imagined the merchants of Venice and government representatives seated on the rigid wooden benches that surround its great hall.  I loved walking across the Bridge of Sighs connecting the palace to the prison and imaging, for the second time, the despair of those who were sentenced to die in this morbid, concrete, windowless, underground prison adjacent to the Doges Palace. Venice is one of the few places in the world where history really comes alive for me everywhere I turn because its history is so accessible.

Our morning tour of the Piazza San Marco was followed by a short afternoon tour of the neighborhood north of the Piazza. Our tour culminated with a gondola ride in the late afternoon…a cliche, yes. But one I enjoyed sharing with my daughter.

For our final evening we had tickets for a concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at La Pieta , a small church on the Grand Canal adjacent to a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi taught violin lessons to the girls who lived there. But we had a couple of hours to spend before that evening engagement.  As we began walking, we came across a wonderful perch quite near Piazza San Marco: a canal-side, open-air restaurant that sat at the very opening of the Grand Canal.  Our first thought was to have a drink and relax while taking in the view, but we ended up eating dinner there because the setting was so amazing.  We had the requisite Bellini cocktails, dined on seafood and watched the sun set over the canal.

We took a short walk following dinner and came upon an area where artists were selling their wares.  It immediately felt familiar and I recognized that it was where I had bought a beautiful etching of the Grand Canal on my previous trip to Venice.  And even more amazing, I recognized the artist, Ugo  Baracco (Incisore in Venezia), standing by a display of his work.  I told him that I had met him ten years ago, that his print was hanging in a place of honor in my living room, and that I love looking at it.  We perused his current collection, chose a beautiful small print of a gondola on the canal for my son as a gift, and my daughter bought a print for herself. Seeing the artist again and talking with him was a magical experience for me.

It was nearly time to attend our concert nearby. I was excited about taking my daughter back to the same church, Chiesa della Pieta, where I had heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed ten years ago.  The group of musicians performing that evening were a well-known chamber group in Venice: I Virtuosi Italiani.  They were brisk, snappy and very engaging. My daughter is a violinist so it was a special treat for her to hear Vivaldi’s music being played in Venice in a church next to where he had actually performed many times.

Our final day in Venice was nearly over.  We got back onboard the vaporetto and took one last, dreamy ride along the Grand Canal back to our hotel.  To add to the emotions of the occasion, there was a full moon hovering over us in Venice that night. Venice was even better than I remembered it, the second time around.

Italy…the Second Time Around

I’m old enough now to join the ranks of Baby Boomers who are traveling everywhere on the planet. Two weeks ago my daughter and I traveled to Venice, Florence and Rome in celebration of her 35th birthday. Although I visited Venice 10 years ago with a group of teachers, it had been 45 years since I’d been to Rome and Florence. I had fuzzy memories of my first trip when I was in my mid-twenties; this journey would reacquaint me with a few familiar places.

Although I would have preferred to end our trip in Venice, the travel arrangements had us going to Venice first. I jumped on the chance to join a group of teachers doing an art tour of Venice, Vienna and Prague a decade ago, and I loved it so much I hoped to return one day. My daughter’s pending birthday was my excuse to make plans to return with her to Italy.

To me, Venice is a mirage floating on water. It was even more glorious than I remembered it to be.

It doesn’t seem possible that a city built on wooden pilings pounded into the clay below the surface of the lagoon almost 1500 years ago could still be standing intact. As I learned from our tour guide in Venice, the wood used to build the impressive palazzos along the Grand Canal was brought from as far away as Croatia and Slovenia by boat. Then hundreds, sometimes thousands  of wooden posts had to be pounded into the clay with a wooden platform placed on top of the pilings to support each palazzo. Since wood does not deteriorate when it is completely submerged and has no contact with oxygen, but instead becomes stronger through a salt-water petrification process, these pilings have allowed the ornate buildings of Venice to continue to appear to float on the surface of the Grand Canal since the fifth century.

http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/construction-venice-floating-city-001750

Yes, the sea level is rising and Venice is scrambling to deal with that problem since 2003 by constructing three strategically placed floodgates at entrances to the Grand Canal (the MOSE project) to hold back the occasional flood tides, similar to the flood gates in Amsterdam and London. Most people, however, believe this is a temporary solution and that Venice will eventually slowly sink into the sea which surrounds it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOSE_Project

And, yes, the quantity of cruise ships entering the lagoon over the past decade was doing irreparable damage to the Grand Canal which has now been addressed by new regulations preventing the cruise ships from anchoring inside the Grand Channel lagoon.

On the final day of our 2 1/2 day visit to Venice we did see a cruise ship being towed through the Grand Canal out to the Mediterranean. It was a ghastly sight; the ship loomed over the palazzos along the Grand Canal as it slowly made its way out to the Adriatic Sea.  I was so grateful our vistas of the Grand Canal  had not been affected by the presence of these ships (as they had been when we visited Greece last year), except for the hordes of tourists that would invade the city every day.

This second time around in Venice I was struck by the constant movement of water in the Grand Canal, caused by the ebb and flow of the tide.  This is accentuated by the constant traffic of boats of all kinds plying the waters of the canal. Since the city is criss-crossed by canals and foot bridges that connect the countless islands (originally 118) that make up the city, trucks and cars are not a viable means of transportation. We watched flat-hulled work boats carrying among other things, jugs of wine, water bottles, construction equipment, and fresh produce throughout the day, starting early each morning.

http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/veneto/venice/boats.html

The constant movement of water and boat traffic creates an overall feeling of restlessness in the city.  Things quiet down after midnight when the work boats are docked and the tourist gondolas and ferries are at rest. I ended each exhausting day of sightseeing by opening the shutters and the windows of our lovely room facing the Grand Canal to be greeted by the sight and peacefulness of Venice at night, under a full moon. Only then can you actually hear the water lapping at the foundations of the buildings, reminding you that this city is unique in the world and is a survivor.

I know I haven’t even mentioned the usual tourist attractions of Venice: St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Doges Palace, the Rialto Bridge and market and the hundreds of churches and squares that are pervasive. I will address them in a future post.  But for me, this second time around, I found I wanted to know more about the structure and inner workings of the city and how Venetians actually live their daily lives in this magical place.

Next time: A meet-up with an American violin-maker who moved his family to Venice and a reunion with a master engraver who is still capturing the beauty and timelessness of Venice in his engravings.