Tuesday, January 15, 2013



It's been wet and rainy for a few days, now, a pattern that began with a thick nighttime fog. I went walking in that fog by myself. It was Sunday, the only day of the week we are sure there will be no hunters out in the fields and woods on the way to the little beach. Usually, Chris and I make the walk out with the dogs, but this week he decided to update our computers instead, so I went by myself. I'd have taken the dogs, but I'm under doctor's orders not to until that injury from over the summer completely heals.

It was late enough that I brought a flashlight, since I expected evening to fall while I was out. I also brought my guidebooks and notebooks and a magnifying lens and my binoculars, which I hardly ever use and could not use on Sunday, as it turned out, because of the fog. I couldn't use any of my equipment because everything was so drippy and dark. I used my ears and a combination of other senses that amounts to a sense in itself. I do this sometimes. It's part of the reason I often look down when I walk. I say it's so that I don't trip over anything, and this is partly true, but a more complete answer--and I've just thought of it--is that by not looking up and around my attention stays generalized and I can get a feel for things.

The vultures who roost at the end of the street flapped heavy and invisible above the fog. Small birds twittered or flew overhead, their wings whistling. Geese flew over and geese flew over and then more geese flew over in invisible skeins. As I came out of the trees and into the marshes, ducks took wing, their small, fast wing beats identifying them as they escaped from channels and pools not fifty feet away from me but lost in the gloom. I must have been frightening to the birds, as so many of them flew at my approach. As I got out towards the end of what was once a small, marshy island, before the causeway was constructed, the geese flew, lifting up out of the bay in a great, unseen, honking mass, wheeling and turning and crying and talking to each other in their wild goose way, honkhonkhonkhonk! The white cedars along the coast, clearly planted once, as they stand in distinct lines, but now being lost one by one to the sea, stood like dinosaurs crouching in the gloom. I got out to the beach and listened, but the geese had all gone.

Were they afraid of me because in the fog they could not see? I was a noise about whom they could know nothing else? I was jumpy myself, startling like an animal at shadows in the gloom, dropping into a half crouch, ready for anything and motionless, until I could be sure the shadow was just a stick or a clump of old grass.

The night finally descended as I returned, but I didn't use my flashlight. I wanted to challenge myself, see if I could get home all but blind. I've done it before, in other places; my feet can follow a trail by touch alone and if I do not try to look at anything my eyes can join my other senses and contribute what little information they have to my "feel" of the place. The shape of shadows and the feel of the farm road kept me oriented the whole way home.

What is this, my fondness for temporary blindness? I can see, and I enjoy what I see much of the time, so why do I not look, look, look? Somehow it feels important to know how to be blind. Maybe I worry about losing my sight? I'm conscious of no such worry, but maybe it is there. Maybe I just enjoy exploring the country of my other senses.

As I crossed the little bridge in the face of the alien glow of porch lights from the house where the Chessie dogs live I heard a wonder and I knew what it was. Under the trees of the forest, the pines where the vultures roost, it was, quite clearly, raining.  I could hear it, no mere occasional drip but a steady, strong patter. Yet out on the bridge under the sky, there was no rain. The water looked perfectly calm in the porch light. And I could even hear that it was not raining on the top of the canopy, only underneath it, like an umbrella that rains from its underside. Of course, the trees were straining moisture from the foggy air, making rain for themselves. Once again, life evokes a lecture I remember from graduate school.

With you, too, I have had to function without my normal senses, put together bits and pieces to form a picture whose truth I can't directly confirm. I know you like hearing from me, so I make sure you do. I know, too, that you are a private person....and from bits and pieces over the years I have gathered very little else. I have put together a picture of your personhood that may or may not be correct. I'm more confident of my blind hiking trails than I am of my understanding of you. You keep me humble. And that is alright. You are alright with me.

I step out of my door with my books and my tools and my plans and my knowledge and the weather immediately makes hash of all my plans, keeps me guessing, renders all my preparations inapplicable. And I keep walking.

best, as ever,

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