When my youngest son, Daniel, was 8 years old, he accompanied me early one Saturday morning on a photo trip to Craggy Gardens off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Asheville, NC. As the elevation increased on our approach to Craggy Gardens, we found ourselves in a dense fog. In my photography mode, I had to check my disappointment. No nice sunrise to show Daniel, no sweeping vistas. Let’s look for the upside….dew on the spider webs, ….wet, saturated colors…..yet, a bored 8 year old…we will have to make it work.
As we walked through the dense fog along the serpentine paths of the grassy balds, Daniel stopped and whispered. Dad, do you hear that?” I listened for a moment, and, hearing nothing unusual, whispered back “Hear what?” Again, Daniel whispered… “It’s the sound of nothing.”
At that point, I paid closer attention. He was correct. No wind, no traffic, no insects, no birds, no voices. The fog was a blanket of acoustical insulation. We stood there experiencing absolute silence. I closed my eyes and found myself getting dizzy trying to stay balanced while deprived of both vision and hearing. After about 30 seconds, the spell was broken by the faint sound of a commercial jet high overhead.
We have all been in fog. We have been fogged in and fogged out. Our memories will fog. So will our glasses and our windshields. Both film and mirrors may fog and are not nearly as useful at helping us see. When we are driving, fog slows us down.
In our lives we all have events and experiences where we are in a fog. We may struggle to “see” through the fog. Being “fogged in” may be a necessary stage along life’s path.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are two passages that come to mind. The first is from Exodus where God tells Moses “I Am that I Am”, which can translate as “I Will Be What I Will Be”. I prefer the combination of the two “I am that I am…I will be what I will be”. God is God and we are not. As humans, there is always more to learn than we now know and there is always more going on in any given situation than we can see.
The first passage from Exodus reminds us we can’t know it all, we can’t understand it all. That doesn’t mean we should not try. By virtue of being human, we are curious; we like to find answers to questions. No matter how deep the fog, we still work hard to make sense of it all. The fog is not necessarily bad.
When we are in a fog:
we slow down;
we become quiet;
we become more attentive to the path right
The second passage is from Psalm 46. “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes, when the Fog envelops us, it may be useful to explore where we are within the Fog. While our sense of sight may be lessened, we can focus on what is close by. We may observe things we might not otherwise take the time to see. The fog may help us to “be still” and thereby experience and appreciate that which we might otherwise rush past or fail to observe.
There are two photographs with this post. The first one is taken on the banks of a fogged in pond, at the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area in WNC, about 50 yards from my campground.
How far can you see? What do you see?
Muted colors…swirling eddies of mist…. a faint tree line across the water but no sun or area mountains. There is a pond, a fallen tree, and wrinkled tree bark slippery from the mist and covered in green algae. A few leaves in their fall colors peak from the mist. Silhouettes of sticks and floating leaves appear and reflect off the water.
The second shot is the same fog, 45 minutes later and at a 2000 foot higher elevation. What a different perspective! One’s definition of fog is not even the same. Now the fog is bright white. It reflects the sun, forms a mat against which the mountains and blue sky appear. The leaves have bright colors and I can see as far as the horizon allows…..but I can’t see the pond. I have no idea if there is a town, a river, or a road below the fog. I certainly can’t see the log or know any of its details. There are trees within 10 feet of me, but I don’t remember anything about those trees. My attention was drawn to the expansive view.
Imagine two individuals, each one experiencing a different one of these two fog moments. They are both wandering in the same wilderness, yet each has such a different encounter. Would they even recognize the other’s description as a place they had been? Are they willing to consider that someone else’s experiences, foggy as they are, are just as real, valid and genuine?
That may be one of the best attributes of the spiritual fogs we encounter. We are given an opportunity to hear each others’ stories. We share the paths we took and our experiences. We can build a relationship of trust to appreciate and find value in the experiences of each other.
What she sees may be very different…but need not be a contradiction. If I can avoid closing off my mind to a reality or experience that did not happen to me, can I learn from what others experience? Can others learn from me?
We need to take and embrace what is offered. My goal for an evening may be to go out on the remote coastline of Maine and see the stars and the milky way. If the fog rolls in, I will be disappointed. However, I need to channel that disappointment into an awareness of a different opportunity. I can focus on the sound of unseen crashing waves, the smell of salt spray, a fog horn in the distance, the coolness of the damp mist and the strong breeze.
We need to appreciate these opportunities to be still… and know… To experience the “I am what I am…I will be what I will be” moments.
“We do not yet see things clearly. We are squinting in a fog, peering through the mist, but it will not be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright….. But for right now, until that completeness comes, we have three things to do. Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 The Message (MSG)
As we love, let us take the time to listen to each other… let us share with each other … let us trust each other…let us be still and learn from each other. And as we do, let us appreciate those “I am God” moments.