Letter from Birdland: Dense fog brings gift of serenity

Letter from Birdland: Dense fog brings gift of serenity

Yesterday afternoon, the fog descended on frozen Birdland, encapsulating us in a mysterious floating world. We couldn't see much past the chicken coop.

Jim's house and his big farm sheds had disappeared. The horizon was gone. We couldn't see the timber or the meadow or the road.

I had spent most of the day at my computer, pounding out grades and comments for essays. I was ready for a break.

"Go outside and listen," Michael said.

"Why?" I asked my husband. "What's out there?"

"Nothing," he said.

It was time to check on the chickens anyway — still cooped up in the grip of this arctic mass — so I put on boots and layers of wool and stepped outside. First I heard a muffled hush, then, straining, and testing the limits of my hearing aids, I heard the calling of birds. The fog had hushed everything and mixed it all up.

Was it the cawing of crows at the tops of the maples in the yard? Or was a flock of geese lost in the fog and calling to each other? So hard to tell. I guess you can hear whatever you want in the mist.

Now, this morning, the fog has lifted some. Still no horizon, but we can see the trees and brush punctuating our fence line. The world is mostly monochromatic, an arrangement in gray and white, the only hint of color is Jim's brown shed, indistinct in the distance, and our big cedar tree, the green almost black in the low light of a misty morning.

The fog brought us another gift in the night. The trees and bushes are now quietly frosted, gentling the starkness of black branches on the white sky. Looking closely, I see it is not an ice storm, not the sterling coating of ice that turns each twig into a silver icicle, but delicate crystals of snow growing out from the cold branches into the slightly warmer air. I wonder what will happen when the fog lifts and the sun returns.

Driving home after the big snow first fell, I was greeted by a snowman. Ellis had been home alone after a half day of school. My youngest might be a high school senior on the cusp of a bright, new world, but he still has the heart of a child. His snowman sat boldly on his giant bottom.

The snow was the perfect, squeaky pack for rolling gigantic snowballs, and I could see the curving path the snowball took before growing too big to push further and settling on the edge of the lane. The middle was half the size of the base — I imagined the struggle even my strong, tall boy would have to muscle it up — and the head was just a little smaller than a bowling ball, teeny-tiny in comparison to his body.

He had spindly little twigs for arms, and the poor, homely man had just driveway gravel for his face and buttons. Now, as our blanket of snow sublimates, the snowman is, not melting, but sliding forward. Every day, he hangs his head a little more, as if contemplating his ephemeral existence and it's made him a little sad. Or maybe he is just checking to see if his shoes are tied (and how do I know he is not hiding shoes under his generous bum?).

Maybe he is an effigy of our arctic mass itself, looking down at our tiny activities, amused at how his presence affects us. He defies gravity and logic, and every morning I expect to find his head has toppled off in the night, but he is very persistent in whatever he is seeking.

The fog lifted. Bit by bit, patches of blue grew in the sky, and the sun returned. I kept glancing out my window at the snow-frosted branches, meaning to take a break from my grading to walk around the yard with a camera. But when I finally got outside, the crystals had gone as silently and mysteriously as they had come.

Soften beauty; crystallize peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She wants to wish everyone a Happy New Year. You can read more of her writings and see photos of Birdland at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Hays can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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