My grandparents discovered Venice, Florida in the 1950s. It was a sleepy town on the Gulf coast, frequented by snowbirds, driving down from New England, the Midwest, and Canada for the winter months. I visited there almost every winter when I was growing up in the 1960s, getting horrific sunburns that peeled for weeks, collecting black fossilized sharks’ teeth on the beach, and ogling the tattooed circus people around town. Venice then was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The Flying Wallendas and Gunther Gebel-Williams, the “lion tamer,” were local celebrities.
The sun and sharks’ teeth remain, but the circus is long gone. Of course, Venice is much more developed and crowded now.
But it retains some of its former charm. It has a palm-lined downtown area, with 1920s architecture, full of shops, restaurants, and well-off retirees. Even though I now am retired, I continue to view Venice as a place full of OLD people, just as I did when I was a child. Everyone seems to be in some stage of old age, from the fit, tennis-outfitted newly-retired, to bent-over ancients holding up checkout lines as, with glacial slowness, their arthritic, shaking fingers pick out each penny and dime for exact payment. Sightings of children are rare.
We headed to Venice this week for a quick visit with my 91-year-old mother, who has lived there for many years. It was a six hour drive each way from St. Simons and we only had three days (between physical therapy sessions) for the trip. We arrived to a sunset, with blue clouds massing over the Gulf, resembling a distant mountain range.
The next day—our one full day there—was glorious and sunny, with a mild breeze. My mother doesn’t venture too far afield these days, but every morning takes a leisurely walk down to the jetties, picking up litter as she goes.
The Venice jetty usually has power walkers, fishers, and a variety of birds. This day was no different.
The most striking birds were the anhingas perched on the jetty rocks drying their wings. They are amazing underwater swimmers, but their feathers become waterlogged, so they spend a great deal of time drying and grooming them.
Neither people nor birds were catching many fish. Instead, the birds seemed to be taking advantage of the sun and wind for extensive grooming.
We toured the yard and its flowers.
And sat and watched the boats go by.
After dinner out, we returned to the tail end of another glowing sunset.
It was followed by the appearance of the moon—just a sliver—and Venus, lingering over the marina.