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Limited Visibility

It has been a week of fog. The first morning it made me think of the tendrils of smoke wafting from a cartoon Santa’s pipe, pushed slowly over the fields by a gentle breath. The second it was flat, had the dull finish of an old car, and stretched from earth to sky in a single swath of mourning dove gray.

The third morning the kind lady on NPR warned of limited visibility and suggested caution on the roadways and, stepping out onto the front porch, I could see why. The previous days’ fog had been almost intangible, practically two-dimensional, invisible except from afar. But this, this was thick and heavy and wet. It changed the shape of things and distorted distances. It fell on my arms and face and hair like a wave of depression.

It was so bad that, despite the instinctual alertness that comes from over 40 years of dodging bucks and does and fawns, I did not see the dead deer lying smack dab in the middle of the dirt road until I was, quite literally, on top of it. Just as its soft tan coat, the exact color of the road, went under the front bumper, I simultaneously realized what it was, gasped out loud, and felt the car rise as though encountering a higher than usual speed bump.

The car was fine. I was fine. I have no idea about the vehicle that originally encountered the poor animal nor the driver thereof. I assume that he/she/it proceeded on through the vicious fog just as I did – slowly and respectfully.

It seemed at this point that I’d seen all the faces of fog. I was ready for a morning in which I did not debate myself all the way to work on the question of whether high beams or low beams were appropriate, in which Carl Sandburg and his little cat feet did not insert themselves into my thoughts every five minutes, in which – like the true flatlander I am – I could see the horizon and locate my place in the world. And, yet, I woke up again to a landscape that couldn’t be brought into focus simply by inserting my contact lenses. I could sense the imminent arrival of frustration.

I have to say that I am getting better at handling it, probably a direct result from frequent and intense contact with what I’ve come to recognize as a feeling of annoyance at my inability to change something that I think needs to be changed. It turns out that the most effective way of dealing with it is to be a good hostess. Open the door, ask it in, offer it a piece of pound cake and some sweet tea. Do that and frustration, like every guest who’s ever been made safe and comfortable, will open up and tell you something you didn’t know before.

So I walked out onto the front porch and left the front door open, a sure sign of welcome. I took a deep breath and raised my arms, like you would if you were getting ready to offer your best friend a big hug. It was quiet and still, as though the fog had insulated the whole world. No birds chirping, no breeze tickling the windchime. I brought my hands together under my chin, took another deep breath, and closed my eyes.

When I opened them, I could see the sun. Not a blazing orange smear, not a pink and lavender smudge, not a shimmering gold spread. What I saw was a white circle, a perfectly round sun, edges as sharp as a lens, smooth as a sphere. Like a biscuit-cutter biscuit. And I realized immediately that, but for the fog, but for the filter of all those billions and billions and billions of water droplets suspended in the sky, I wouldn’t get to see that.

I love blazing orange smears and pink and lavender smudges take my breath away. A shimmering gold spreads make me run for my camera. But there is more to acknowledge than the spectacular. There is more to notice than the flashy. There is more to see than what we can see.

I’m working hard to remember that. To remember it so well that I just know it. To remember it so well that I don’t have to think about it. To remember it so well that the sight of fog will make me hungry for pound cake.

Copyright 2017

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