Venetian Stairs | Mark Lindsay

It is our first morning in Venice and it is raining. I am undaunted. Great cities like Venice transcend weather and climate. My only complaint is that I must hold both camera and umbrella with the same hand, a juggling act that might result in short-circuiting my new Nikon. It's worth the risk. Venice is achingly beautiful in the rain, reflecting itself vainly in the shimmering pavement. I quickly learn how to hold the umbrella and click the shutter, all with the same hand and with efficient motion.

I lower my head as I climb the steps of a bridge near our apartment. I stop and make more photos. Each bridge has its own personality and I try to know this one in particular. It has a wide and welcoming flight of stairs, beckoning me to the other side. A narrow canal runs beneath it. The bridges make Venice seem bigger than it really is. It's easy to complain about the bridges—all the ups and downs. But without them Venice would seem less dramatic and very flat. The bridges give the city its dimensionality and its life.

I keep photographing the welcoming bridge as I cross it. Venice compels one to remember every moment of every Venetian day. It is an impossible task but I try to soak it all in anyway. I try to remember the exact sensation of crossing this particular bridge at this particular moment. I breathe in the briny, damp air and add the smell to my memory bank. I feel the slick hardness of the paving stones. Water splashes up and wets my socks. I tighten my scarf around my neck as water dribbles down from my umbrella. I hear the rain drops as they hit the water beneath me. This moment—as I cross the bridge—I shall remember it forever.

As I reach the bridge's crest I discover the other side, a long, skinny alley that ends ahead abruptly. I will know not which way to turn until I get there. I move forward with blind faith that the alley leads somewhere, anywhere. The other side of the bridge is another world entirely. I descend and continue forward. I suddenly realize that the bridge, while I was on it, had me in its spell. For that moment time seemed to cease. I was between worlds. Suspended.

The other world brings me to the long alley. I continue my journey. The alley ends and I discover that I must turn to the left. Another Venetian world opens before me. Another bridge reveals itself and calls me to it. A gust of wind tries to lift me and my umbrella upward. For a second I feel like I'm flying. I pull down my umbrella and return to earth—to Venetian earth and its next bridge.