82. Walk on Water

Last night, I went to see the documentary Walking on Water, about the artist Christo’s 2016 installation The Floating Piers at Lago di Oseo in northern Italy. The Floating Piers was a nearly two-mile-long, saffron-colored, fabric-on-polyethylene- cube walkway on the lake, extending out to and around an island.

Christo, now 83 years old, is probably best known in the U.S. for his installation The Gates, a series of banners in New York’s Central Park, in that same signature saffron color.  It was installed in 2005, and my family and I were fortunate enough to experience it.

Unlikely though it may seem, walking down the paths under those banners created a wonderful community spirit, public art at its best.

Because of that experience, I planned our 2016 trip to Italy around a stop in this out-of-the-way region during its two-week run, so we could experience the Italian version for ourselves. Never mind that a week before the trip, Ben tore his Achilles tendon and was hobbling around on crutches (which by the way, lets you zip through the airport lines with wheelchair service).Where there’s a will (mine), there’s a way.

The film showed in detail the behind-the-scenes process of designing, funding, building and implementing a mammoth project such as this, with Christo’s “artistic temperament” on full display. It showed the near panic of Christo and his team at the size of the crowds who visited, fearing that with those large numbers, it would be out of control and someone was bound to get hurt. Authorities estimated that there were 100,000 visitors every day.

But mostly, watching the film brought back the joyfulness of the actual experience of being there, in experiencing the stunning beauty of the surroundings and the ebullience of the crowds. It would be hard to describe in words why it worked, but there was something about being there that was somehow moving and uplifting. I am not sure it was quite so joyful for Ben, who had to navigate the unsteady surface on crutches, but I was surely happy we did it.

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