Fog. Your (Nearly) Sunday Brunch Special

I’m something like seven years old and our house sits at the boundary of the town. Our backyard has some kind of tree in it, I remember. Beyond the backyard barbed wire fence, there is empty treeless rolling grassland populated by magpies, rabbits, and stray cats in summer. At the front of the house, the house I was not born in but came home to from the birth-hospital, there is a narrow blacktopped street. On the other side of the street is more treeless grass, long grass, but at this point in time, long grass that has laid over in its silent brown death agony. I think about the old green “push mower” my brothers use to cut the grass in our yard. It’s cold. I can’t see much beyond the road, but I know very well that there are, far out there, railroad tracks. I have sometimes wakened at the 2am whistle for the crossroads. The fog is thick this evening, I mean it looks like evening. Really it’s more like four in the afternoon I guess. I want to walk out there toward the tracks but I know there are half-frozen pools that could waylay a seven-year-old, if not in life-danger, then mother danger. As in, how did you manage to get soaked just after I put clean clothes on you? I don’t go out. But I stand there, indecisive. Should I take a step into the fog?

I think now in the present about my father, long dead. When he was my fog age, he was living on a farm hundreds of miles north of where I was contemplating a journey through dense fog over dead grass. I wonder at what he does at four o’clock in the afternoon on a November afternoon in the fog bank coming off the meandering river. He might go fishing. I don’t know. What I don’t know about his life is so vast that while we lived in the same house together for nineteen years I know nearly nothing about him. Oh, I know our interactions, such as they were. But really nothing. We were moving through fog. And that’s what we all do. At seven, I stroll across the road and look back. The fog is thick enough that I can see our huge willow tree in the front yard and the outline of the house but not much else. I am alone. Shivering, I run for the front door.

Fog. I’m seventeen. I think it was something like that really thick marine layer that can ghost in quickly onto the shore. I’m alone in my parent’s car, trying to drive home from a friend’s house in the country. The fog is so thick I can’t see the road. It’s dead dark and the fog muffles what noise there is as I grope, door open, head out, leaning down, trying to see the edge of the road. Since it’s November, there is school tomorrow I imagine. So I can’t just sit and wait for the fog to blow off. In fact, it sticks around for a couple of days. It’s late and I’ve got to get home. The fog seems to get so thick I can hardly see the ground. Home feels like a million miles from here.

Fog. I’m twenty. There is thick fog coming off Lake Champlain into the Vermont town where I’m living. And there will be snow tonight, I can tell. It’s cold. November cold. I’m heading for home because it will be dark soon and I can barely see the street lamps. I’m with my missionary companion and we are walking through a kind of strip mall, going into stores along the way, not to buy (or sell) but to stay a little warm. We are dressed in dark suits and dark overcoats. A man walks in front of us and by chance we seem to be making the same turns to our destinations. Finally, looking deadly fearful, he turns and faces us. No, we tell him. We aren’t cops. He turns and hurries away. I wonder what he was up too, who, knows. Maybe we had a Gestapo vibe. Our home is the attic of a dilapidated cramped rest home for the elderly. It has no heat but there is a gas range at one end. We keep the oven on and the door open at night so we don’t freeze. You have to remember to keep all the interior doors open though. No worries about carbon monoxide. Heck, the mice freeze in the bacon grease jar. Lots of draft. The fog is so thick we nearly miss the back steps. The fog has closed over the people I knew then, even that guy who was running from something. I’d guess many are dead and gone. Lost in the fog. I shiver to think about the aloneness of it. I know almost nothing of them.

There is thick fog. I’m sailing on the Atlantic on an obsolete and about to be retired steamer. You can’t see the water if you look over the railing but horizontally I know we must be close to New York. Not close enough to see the lights, even if it wasn’t over the horizon. I wonder, what would it be like if I jumped overboard? The water I know was very cold but seemingly calm. That would be alone, very alone. Alone forever. In my fifteen-year-old head I wonder what it would be like to be alone forever. They say most of us would go insane. We’re social beings, meant to spend at least some of our days with each other. Without that urge, we would never survive.

Fog. It is always there, keeping us separate, like Paul’s dark mirror. There is fog closing in now. It’s the fog of past worlds, past branchings of space-time perhaps, but we forget, and then make up cognates of reality to fill in the gaps. No one here knows our histories. Least of all, ourselves. This thanksgiving, take a moment, in person or otherwise, to dive deep into someone’s story before it’s gone from this world forever. Make it part of your self for a while. Before whatever comes next.

Comments

  1. This made me think of Ecclesiastes, where it says “All is Meaningless” or “All is Vanity”. The word translated hear is Hevel, which could be translated as smoke or fog. “All is Fog”. I am thankful for your fog.

  2. There’s this thing called journaling. I began mine many years ago when I showed up at BYU, a clueless non-member. Caught the bug there almost immediately and as a result have many years worth, right up to the present. At best, these pages are a guide thru that fog. At some pt will digitize and archive for future generations. I wouldn’t call my efforts necessarily faith-promoting. I’d call it reality-promoting. My birth family is insane; a guide thru that mess is the most loving & positive thing I can do.

  3. Thank you.

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