Piano Lesson

I have visited Venice often – most recently this year. The city is a magic place for exploring, hunting glimpses of the city behind the tourist facade. I find treasure in golden moments of early morning sunlight and shadow, glimpses of the aged and decrepit city transformed into dazzling loveliness. But suddenly, the flashy moment is gone, the mask drops, the beauty vanishes and reality is revealed. It is often better to leave before the inevitable transformation; and not return later to try to recapture the moment.

I enjoyed a moment of such unexpected beauty in 1986 at a youth hostel run by a religious group. It was a typical youth hostel – noisy and chaotic, although this one was more beaten and cracked than most. But during breakfast I captured a piano bathed in early morning light, framed by the windows of an ancient grand palace. It is a peaceful photo that does not hint at the chaos of the very different scene behind me at the time – loud young people sprawled around a dining room full of old tables and chairs with peeling walls and aged decor.

Friends loved this picture; some asked for prints to hang on their walls. My girlfriend at the time, an excellent photographer, wanted to see where I took the image. I told her she would be disappointed, it was best to leave alone the fantasy of the image. But she insisted. So, to satisfy our curiosity, we visited the hostel – saw the same piano, the same windows, and of course the rest of the shabby dining room. The scene she saw was nothing like the one I had captured and that she so admired. She was shocked and disappointed. We both regretted our return to the hostel and our piano lesson, which was a relearning of the truth of two of my mantras: Nothing stays the same, and Nothing is what it seems to be

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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