I woke up freezing in the middle of the night. I put on an extra pair of socks, lay my jacket over my sleeping bag and curled up as small as I could, and fell back to sleep. A little while later I was even colder than before. I sat up in my tent and reached around, looking for any piece of clothing I could lay on top of myself. My back hit the top of the tent. It didn't feel right; It was lower than it should have been and felt heavy. I unzipped the tent a little and peered into the semi-darkness. It was snowing heavily with large wet flakes. About 4 inches had accumulated and it showed no signs of slowing down.
The night before I had set up my tent next to the river Boite near the Italian town of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Before I settled down for the night I had painted my last two paintings of the Dolomites. The first was painted facing the opposite bank. Warm light lit up the peak that soared above me turning the mountain shades of red and orange. I turned my easel to the south and painted my last painting of Mount Faloria. Golden light caught the rugged tips of its towers. Fresh snow, turning pink, helped emphasize every crack, groove and ledge of this exultant mountain.
It was about 4:30 in the morning. A decision had to be made. Do I wait to see if the snow stops or do I leave before it gets worse? I had a small car with thin summer tires and the narrow mountain roads that led out of the high valley could prove treacherous. As quickly as possible I packed up. Slowly and carefully I edged the car across the narrow wooden bridge that led to the main road. As I entered Pieve di Cadore, the hometown of the Venetian painter Titian, the snow turned to rain. I was relieved and sad at the same time. I wouldn't be back for years and this mountain realm had changed me forever.
Two hours later I was just outside Venice. The cold of winter had given away to the embracing sun of late summer. Just before Mestre, I took the A4 towards Croatia. I turned off the freeway and took a side road through towns whose names have a magical sound to them: Caposile, Cortelazzo Lido di Jesolo and finally Cavallino. Here I set up my tent in a very civilized campground. Each spot was divided by a short hedge and small lights accompanied the pathway to the showers. Stone Pine trees twisted and turned above my campsite and seemed like they were in a silent dance with each other. A short walk under the rhythmic pines and I was on the beach looking out across the Adriatic's lazy waves. In less than three hours I had driven from winter in the foothills of the Alps to summer on a beach just outside the most romantic city in the world.
As I walked the main road to catch the bus to Punta Sabbioni the afternoon light spotlit a whole line of dancing pine trees. Their branches linked arms as they connected above and tangoed down the road. The bus followed their line dance to the Vaporetto port. The boat would take me on an exploration of the Venice Lagoon and to the islands of Burano, Murano and Torcello. On Torcello, in front of the cathedral dating to AD 639, I sat in the supposed throne of Atilla the Hun. This gave me a real sense of the ancient history of the lagoon islands.
More than history, I was captivated by the texture of the walls, columns, and stonework under my hands as well as the color of the light. Gliding over the placid lagoon waters at different times of the day filled me with excitement and inspiration. My favorite time was at sunset and dusk when a purple/peach color would envelop the whole watery landscape. Golden light caught the tops of trees and marbled facades. Slowly nature and the man-made melted together into a glorious symphony of color and shapes. Partly hidden between the tree trunks and beyond I could spot shrines, gardens, and sacred buildings. A sense of mystery and magical color pervaded all.