Someone once said, "Beauty is the higher mathematics in the realm of the spirit, the world of the soul." When I picture that thought in my mind, it usually requires a bit of conceptual gymnastics. But when I simply picture my idea of beauty and what leading a life amidst beauty would be like, I think of Italy and then I think of Venice.

I visited Venice for the first time a year and a half ago. There were no automobiles, no trucks, no buses. It was and is a city whose byways are fluid silk upon which flow only vessels of the sea. Venice is really a group of small islands off the coast. One can go there by boat or, more commonly, by train- The Italians constructed an earthen bridge over which run the tracks to the main island. But once you arrive, there are only two modes of transportation, by foot and by sea.

Stately 15th and 16th century manor houses, constructed with grandiose and ornate seductiveness, lined either side of the Grand Canal, the major waterway throughout the city. Italians have always nursed a passion for enhancement. They are in love with decorating. Historically, they have expressed their desire for beauty through their surroundings. Every wall, floor, and ceiling, inside and out, was embellished. The arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture were magnificently represented. The ceiling of our hotel room depicted rosy-bottomed cherubs with silver-tipped wings tossing flower petals to the four corners of the room.

The walkways between the buildings (without cars, there are no need for streets), were narrow alleys that wound and twisted and led you astray, depositing you at last in a piazza where played one of the ubiquitous and beautiful fountains. Italian fountains are works of art in themselves. Lifesize statues of gods and creatures from mythology are frequent figures for these structures that seemingly serve no other purpose than to inspire a few moments of serenity within the eye and heart of the beholder.

Romance permeated the air. The intoxication of it served to intensify every sensory experience. When we stood in San Marcos Square and looked toward the sea, the gentian blue of the sky, the fishing boats and yachts tied at the dock, and the gentle slapping of the water against the pier combined to create a timeless picturesqueness. All the charm of the Renaissance seemed to be unchanqed by the centuries and embodied here in the birthplace of Marco Polo, and seems a fitting place for Polo to begin his journey to discover the mysteries of the East.

My companion and I responded to this atmosphere with a renewed awakening of our feelings. The physical demonstrations of our love for each other were long and languid, and yet possessed an-emotional depth that was almost spiritual. During the warm summer days we strolled slowly along the canals, hand in hand, and conversation would cease as Venice lulled us into a dreamlike trance. In the evenings, we would dine in one of the many good but inexpensive restaurants and watch the candlelight flicker against the soft backdrop of the Italian night.

I felt so alive while I was there. Venice lovingly brought out so many thoughts and feelings that I hadn't been conscious of for a long time. I felt a deep connectedness. There was a renewal of connections with beauty, art, love, and myself. Everything I saw and experienced sounded an echo deep in my soul. Every scene had a grace, a poise, some quality that lifted it out of the ordinary.

And now, I want to go back. With my lover holding my hand, I want to walk back into that magic and let Venice take us to her bosom and gently heal us and awaken us once again.

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