I spoke to the Duchess Renée today, and since she is the friend who loaned me a lovely little book which I took on vacation…Voilà! I had found my inspiration for today’s blog post.
(I also started The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski on Lea’s recommendation. I am enjoying it but since I barely got started on that one, its reading did not seep into my trip like the little book did. Perhaps that is best…Lea did say that it was a great book, but not necessarily a great vacation book.)
The unassuming little book I am dancing around telling you about (one reviewer referred to it as a “little cioppino of a book,” which seems remotely but not clearly related, i.e. is it chopped up because it is small? Let me know what you think…so far looking this definition up has only succeeded in making me hungry for something I cannot get my hands on right now) is called A Thousand Days in Venice. It is the later-in-life love story of author and American chef Marlena de Blasi. I found her writing to be insightful and unexpected, evocative of another place, yet entirely relatable.
Marlena marries a Venetian man later in life…a man she calls the stranger. This appellation is not used by her in a derogatory manner, which on first reflection was surprising. As I became accustomed to it however, I began to think that this made extraordinary sense. After all, can one ever really know another person, who in spite of so much longevity and proximity in our lives will always remain, to a certain extent, the other? Even after 20 years I am still discovering layers to Jeremy, and to friends and family members as well. Isn’t otherness, strangeness even, integral to the mystery and meaning of relationships? Fairly quickly I found myself admitting: “Marlena, I totally get it. He is a stranger. And not only because you just met him.”
In any case, Marlena marries the stranger and throws her lot in with his after only a few months, even moving across the world to be with him.
I always consider it a very good sign if there are passages in a book that I am compelled to underline…dog-earring the page, and re-reading it enough times to merit actually purchasing the book so that I can loan it to other people. (I love the idea of owning books, but I use the library a lot to save on our budget. So the purchase of a book is a strong statement in my world at this point in time.)
To follow is one of the passages in the little cioppino which struck me as so very good… good enough to make me want to buy the book. It seemed more than a coincidence that I happened to read it the day before heading home, dreading the next day’s transition even as I was still sitting in the California sunshine, peacefully reading. The excerpt articulated what I feared: Would we recall what it was like to be more connected and calm, once we re-entered the chaos? Would we be able to hold on to what makes us, us?
And another fear that surfaces from time to time: Will I be able to hold on to what makes me, me? Especially once things get dizzying and noisy and blurry-eyed like a carousel ride?
Marlena writes about her month-long honeymoon in Paris:
“Our days are undesigned. We walk until we see something we’d like to see more closely, and then we walk again until we want to sit or go back to bed or go early to lunch at Toutone so we can go late to lunch at Bofinger or to lunch not at all, so we can go at eight to Balzar for oysters and then to Le Petit Zinc for mussels at midnight…
We have stayed a long time in Paris, a month of days and nights inside the rapture. Because it’s nearly time to return to Venice, I begin to wonder how that will feel. ‘Fernando, what do you think will happen when we return home?’
‘Nothing so different,’ he tells me. ‘We’re our own happiness. We’re the festival and wherever we go our life won’t change much. Different backdrops, different people, always us,’ he says…”
We are the festival.
Don’t you think it’s a wonderfully apt way of putting things?
I sure wish I had thought of it. ( :