January 18, 2022

I could swear Fort Meadow Reservoir was out there somewhere…


There it is, fog, atmospheric moisture still uncertain in destination, not quite weather and not altogether mood, yet partaking of both.

-Hal Borland


It’s the first of January and it’s 49℉ outside!  Fog lies thick on the ground and the tarmac is shiny-wet and bepuddled from a light rain falling earlier in the morning.  The entire Universe has been reduced to a circle of a quarter-mile in diameter.  The trail up ahead bends into the mist and disappears into mystery, as if a magical veil has fallen across it, hiding where it leads.  Sound penetrates a shorter distance than light, deadening even the ubiquitous city noise of cars and machinery.  Waldo is the expert on smells, but my guess would be that even odors have decreased range due to the super-humidity.   To me, the predominant, although faint, smell is one of dampness and decay, which is directly under my feet.  The air is still and heavy and lies on my shoulders like a wet blanket.  How can this be happening in January?

But it is January.  And a good day to walk your dog.  Most of the people Waldo and I pass are at one end of a leash, the other end being pulled by a canine of some variety, size or type.  This, too, is surprising for this time of year.  It’s as if dog owners, en masse, awoke and realized this was an opportunity not to be missed.  Or maybe it was the dogs who saw the chance for a spring-like break and pestered their caretakers mercilessly until they consented to a walk in the foggy woods.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many dogs with their people out here before.

I like walking in the fog.  The here-and-now takes on a presence that is more manageable, more tangible, more comprehensible, than on a sunny day when you can see and hear seemingly forever.  It’s as if reality presents itself in bite-sized chunks, making it easier to focus on what’s right before you and ignore the rest.  Because you can’t sense the rest – it’s all lost in the mist.  It can’t distract and confuse you, can’t vie for your attention and compete with the immediacy of what’s right in front of you.  It’s kind of reassuring, and even welcoming.  Maybe, too, it makes it easier to set aside your mundane issues and concerns, to take a break, as if they were all in another world somewhere else.

I have a commercial multiengine land pilot’s license with an instrument rating and I used to love to fly around in the clouds.  The only reference to my location was revealed indirectly by the needles and readouts displayed in front of me – none of my attention was directed out the window.  To fly on instruments requires a constant scan of the altimeter, airspeed indicator, artificial horizon, turn and bank indicator, gyrocompass and radio navigation instruments.  There is no time to appreciate the view (there isn’t much of that anyway — just white mist) and the reason I liked to do it was that it was a technological challenge.  Even so, there was a certain beauty to flying along, following the directions of the flight controller on the ground and the instruments in front of me.  Then, dropping through the bottom of the clouds, bam! there, right in front of me, lined up perfectly as if by magic, was the runway I was aiming for.  There were limits, though – usually a minimum visibility of 2 miles and a ceiling of six hundred feet.  I would not be flying in conditions as thick as these.

Maybe the weather today is an apt metaphor for what awaits us in 2022.  God knows we have a lot of problems before us — Covid is raging, climate change is worsening, politics is divisive in this midterm election year, inflation is blossoming and we have a supply-chain problem driving down the availability of so many goods and services.  Trying to see what the new year will offer is like looking into the fog, trying to see what is around that bend in the trail lost in the mist.  Maybe, just maybe, the best route forward through 2022 is to focus on what’s right before us, the immediate concerns we all have.  A little less attention spent on the things we can’t control and more on what we can, might just make us all a little more companionable, caring and satisfied.  And a lot easier to get along with.

What’s right in front of me, right now, is a three and a half year old border collie, who is romping and cavorting, clearly having a good time.  My plan for 2022 is to put much of my attention there, to ensure that he continues to enjoy life by housing him, feeding him, giving him doggy-loves and taking him for walks.  Waldo, he is already in the moment, concentrating on what is in front of him.   I don’t think he ever pays much attention to what is more than a quarter-mile away.  His focus is mainly on the ground an inch or so under his nose.  The fog doesn’t seem to phase him in the least.  But then, nothing much ever does.  And, judging by his wagging tail and brisk pace, he is a very happy puppy.

And that, by itself, makes me happy.


It’s okay, Waldo. Trust me. The trail does keep going.

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