Though I have visited both islands many times, today was the first time I’ve visited the museums on Murano and Burano, two unique places that share the lagoon surrounding Venice.
On Murano, which has produced some of the world’s most fabulous glass, the Museo de Vetri, (glass) works in chronological order. The first room holds glass from the ancient Romans. I was immediately arrested by a large, thin, clear vessel, maybe twenty four inches high, bulbous and tinted with clear blue marbling, which read on the small card, “dal I secolo.”
From the first century.
That’s a year that doesn’t even have a one in front of it, our century has a twenty begins with a twenty.
That’s a piece of glass twenty centuries old, my friends. Twenty times one hundred years, this delicate, hand-blown piece of glass has survived, intact. Our country is two centuries old, this fragile, graceful pitcher has survived ten times as long as the United States of America, which we think of as so solid, so superior, so unbreakable.
Later, on Burano, we saw lace as old as five hundred years, incredibly intricate, woven of silk-thin fiber into patterns of birds and flowers, angels and demons, saints and martyrs. Still, in the light from a window, old women sit and work, twisting fibers so frail into art with infinite patience that will soon be beyond the skill of those who will come after them.
I was stunned by the honor of standing witness to these precious things. Speechless that these objects, so seemingly fragile and delicate, crafted by hands and eyes that died so many generations ago, could still be seen by my living eyes today, things you thought too frail to imagine surviving even a lifetime, have persevered for millennia.
Yet, sometimes it’s the way of the world. That which we consider the most fragile is in fact, stronger than we know, capable of weathering the most inconceivable tests of time.
Just like life. For often the most delicate of things are the most enduring—love, innocence, hope, these things continue in spite of all the cruelty, bullying, the crushing blows dealt by ignorance and violence, brutality and indifference.
A lasting relationship is not so different from that lace, it is woven of so many threads, every smile, wink, every individual glance of compassion representing one of those threads. Sometimes, when handled by the unskilled or the unknowing, they grow tangled, knotted and gnarled beyond repair, but sometimes with care, attention, and infinite patience, they can be unsnarled, and still other times even the mistakes can make a beautiful pattern, a new, yet enduring one.
And our years on this planet are not so different from that glass. How long we have is as uncertain as the strength of that melted sand, shaped in fire, and molded by intent.
As for the glass, and the lace, they will one day crumble, be crushed or dissolved. The cities that treasure them will be drowned, the world will change, life will evolve or pass out of existence. That too is not so different from us, we are after all, all part of the great evolution. We shall die, turn to dust, be forgotten, everything passes, people, buildings, countries, even stars burn out.
But maybe, just maybe, those threads of connection, those reflections of real emotion will endure, spinning a lace of fineness in a universe of unimaginable grandeur, sparkling with the reflections of all that was good.
A museum of us, of our lives, of every tender moment in humanity and of all that was good in the universe.
A Museum of Eternity.
At least, I hope so. Perhaps, if we knit the thought together and put it under glass, it will be so.
Shari, February 28, 2013