Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cocooned in a morning fog

A cushion of tiny pink and white petals that had been cast off from the fruit trees during the night greeted my first venture outside this morning. California "snow".

I stood in the soft, feathery puddle and peered, not all that hopefully, up at the sky, seeing what I'd come to expect lately... yet more clouds. I've gotten pretty good at telling which ones are full of rain that is just waiting for a signal to fall and drench us yet again, and which are just hovering there as a menacing reminder of what could be.

Feeling a little like I should be writing for the Farmer's Almanac, or one of those people who live in places that have weather, I judged that we would have a day of reprieve from the rain. For the morning, anyway. It was going to be a cloudy day, but fairly clear and dry, in my now expert estimation.

The courtyard of my building was clear so it wasn't until I got nearer to the street and couldn't see the other side that I realized that I'd made a slight miscalculation. While the dreary rain was gone for a time, we'd exchanged it for a nice, thick fog.

And that was just what I needed. Really.

Do you think in pictures and sounds? I do, quite often. Mornings are my time and I find myself taking my cue for the day from what I hear and see in them. Clear, sunny mornings are like tinkling wind chimes. Rainy mornings - drums and cymbals and tap dances. And foggy mornings... a cocoon. As an introvert, I am right at home in the last.

Walking in thick fog is different from other weather because you can -almost - make the real world disappear and create your own. You know the same buildings are there that were there yesterday but, until you get close enough for them to take on form, you can imagine them to be ... well, whatever you want. A pillow, a cloud, a Stonehenge-like structure on a foggy moor, a castle or the seashore. Whatever strikes your fancy at the moment.

What I find most alluring about walking in fog, however, is that while oftentimes everything around me is covered in a heavy, impenetrable mist, the space I am in is clear. I move forward with the haze opening up before me, and closing again behind me - surrounded, enveloped, but not consumed. I look as far ahead as I can and feel as if I am heading towards a deliciously mysterious unknown, but by the time I get there the familiar, solid shapes are right where they are supposed to be.

Once in a while things take over your whole world, and you are completely immersed in being and feeling and interacting, and that's okay. Sometimes. At other times everything seems to just step lightly around you, leaving your world untouched.

That's how it was this particular morning.

I find it distressingly easy to get fanciful when cocooned like this. Harsh edges and sounds are gone, and what I can see and hear is softened, once removed. The rumble of the cars on the pavement, the shouts of the children on their way to school are all still there... but muted. I hear a hum and look down the street, seeing nothing except a slight lightening of the air. Soon headlights appear, growing larger and brighter as they approach, the car an explosion of sound and metal for a few moments as it enters my bubble of clearness before it whooshes on past and I am left watching its tail-lights slowly fade back into the mist.

Across the four lanes, on the opposite walkway, I can make out vague movements, becoming occasionally defined as a person fading in and out through denser or lighter mists, never quite taking on substance or recognition before they are enclosed and are once again outside my view. I see an arm moving back and forth - someone waving at me... who are they and am I who they think I am? Does it matter, on a day like this? I wave back at the blurry figure.

On my side of the street others pass right through my cocoon but don't stay. I hear their footsteps long before their bodies begin to take on substance... usually an almost disembodied head first, then gradually the rest until they eventually enter fully formed into my unclouded area, passing close enough for an exchange of smiles and greetings before they walk past and disappear again into their own cocoons.

When I get to the overpass of the still unfinished freeway, I look down at the beginning and I can see only a very short distance before it too disappears into the fog. It's not until my return trip that I have a different perspective and notice a long, squiggly crack that meanders into the nothingness on the as yet untried highway. I can't tell how bad it is - maybe it stops just beyond where I can see, and will be easily repaired. Nicks and dings and puttied over cracks don't ruin an object for me. I frequently find greater beauty in something that has once been broken and has been restored to continue on doing what it's meant to do than in something that radiates continuous perfection. Still, this crack in the highway obviously is a structural problem that doesn't bode well for the long term. I hope they fix it soon.

Over on the other side, where I can usually see the end of the highway before it curves around, there is nothing. A completely blank shroud of mist, giving no indication that there is even a continuation of anything there. This would be a bit disconcerting except that I know that this is perfectly normal behavior for a cocoon. A suspension of time and place and cares, for a short while.

Cocoons, after all, don't eliminate confusion, or grief, or wars, or politics or anything else that is going on in your world. They just hold them at bay for a time, allowing you to rest a moment in the clarity of your little protected space, which gradually expands as the sun returns to burn away the layers of fog.

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