I’ve just returned from Christmas Eve services at San Giorgio Maggiore, Palladio’s magnificent church on its island across from Piazza San Marco. A faded green and yellow vaporetto awaited our boarding. We departed into mist-veiled midnight.
Between points of solid land, in space marked by few reference points, we glided across the ebony fog-shrouded, mirror smooth, waters of the lagoon. The peace of the boat was interrupted only by an occasional splash of water against hull. Passengers were silent. Perhaps they, as did I, recalled images of candle illuminated frescos, the heady fragrance of smoky incense, transported by those memories, the mystical soul of this extraordinary night.
Lights glowed from harbor markers as we passed prism globes afloat in misted air, suspended above the coal dark sea.
As we approached the landing at San Zaccaria, fog-veiled lights on palazzi, hotels and the Ducal Palace came to view. Everyone leaving the vaporetto was offered a kind, quiet, “Buon Natale” (Merry Christmas) by the attendant. Softly muted voices responded as passengers dispersed into the early morning.
As I turned down a darkened lane near my rooms a small dog and cat appeared, walking side by side, seeming oblivious to both their differences and my footfall. As they reached the end of the lane, they sat at the edge of a narrow canal. Billows of fog breathed passed behind their silhouettes. I stopped to watch, noting the time; thirty minutes past midnight on Christmas morning. An old story of Christmas Eve, a time when animals could talk with each other, came to mind.
I wondered what conversation was passing between them
As I turned yet another corner I pulled the scarf up more tightly around my throat, shrugged the coat against my shoulders and left those two friends behind.
For centuries the world has known Venice as a city of mystery and beauty. For me, none more so than the Christmas Eve I was privileged to see the magic of the arriving day rise in two animals, no more alike than earth and moon, as they welcomed in the gifts of Christmas Day