A few days ago, in my neck of the woods, we had a morning of rare thick fog. It hovered deep over rooftops and created frost linings along wires and tree branches. The sky was white, with no hint of sun through the haze, just the glow that bathed everything. It was utterly magical.
On this frigid Saturday morning at 8:00 am, I wasn’t concerned about throwing on my yoga pants and a t-shirt to go buy some groceries since I’d be mostly hidden beneath my black parka anyways. As I hopped in the car and backed out of the garage, the awe escaped me in a gasp of wonder. If you live in a northern clime and have experienced a hoar frost in the making, you know what I mean. If you live more southerly and haven’t experienced this incredible wonder of nature, it’s difficult to describe how beautiful it is. Photographs, no matter how artfully taken, fail to grasp the beauty of this natural phenomenon.
My local grocer is only a few blocks away but I kept on driving. I’m very grateful to live near a huge wild park preserve with a network of paths, some that run along the river, and picnic table areas scattered among the acres of old growth forest. It was definitely a ‘selling feature’ when we were house hunting.
As I drove past the grocery store and into the wild preserve, I was pleased with the lack of traffic. Indeed, everything seemed hushed and in slow motion. I found myself driving under the speed limit just to gape and marvel at the incredible sight of the trees frosted with white, their tall tips melting into grey fog. Luckily the speed limit is already very slow into this family-friendly park as I kept inching along. Keeping a close eye on my rear mirrors, I saw that no one was coming, or going, on this incredible morning.
Then I saw one person, with a small dog on a leash, walking out of the fog in front of me to cross the road. I happily stopped and leaned forward to look up at the exquisite splendor of the tall trees being painted with hoar frost icicles on every surface. Glancing in my mirrors I saw, again, no one behind me. I drove slowly deeper into the park, approaching the lake and the turn-around where the road ends.
The beauty of nature always feels like a painting by God to me, and the more beautiful the sight, the more deeply I am moved. This particular morning I was moved to tears. Perhaps that I was listening to Amy Grant’s ‘Better than a Hallelujah’ might have something to do with it, but mostly I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for life, and the gifts we are so freely given, every day, if we but open our eyes.
As I finished the drive and looped back towards the grocery store I realized, I wasn’t finished. Not yet. I wasn’t done admiring this incredibly beautiful and rare event of nature. I had to go back! Pulling a careful U-turn on that deserted road, I drove back to the one parking lot in the middle of the main cluster of picnic areas, a place I visit often in the warmer months. A place one can easily walk down to the river. I pulled in and parked not too far from the only other vehicle, a mini-van.
As I turned off the engine, wrapped my scarf around my neck a couple of times and pulled my wool hat and gloves from my bag, I saw the occupants of the van slowly heading towards the river. From their sizes I guessed one adult and three young children, all bundled in snow pants and parkas.
Seeking solitude, I headed the other way along a path following a creek that feeds into the massive river. The hush upon the forest couldn’t hide the occasional squeals and joyful shouts from the small gathering behind me, and it made me smile. I looked up at the treetops in the blanketing fog and quietly recited a poem aloud, knowing no one was around to hear and wonder about this woman speaking to herself.
There was tremendous duck and goose chatter at the river, and I was compelled to stop walking away from the commotion and instead go and see what kind of bird action was happening. As I turned around I noticed that the family hadn’t gone far, and instead were playing in a small copse of trees just beyond the parking lot. I walked past them towards the river, pausing at a small cluster of young aspen beside the path to touch the intricate frost icicles that formed along their thin branches.
As I approached the river I noticed more birds than I’d ever seen on this section of river before, and seeing as some were on this side of the river, I stopped well back since I didn’t want to disturb them. For several minutes I stood and watched this massive display of wildlife. There were Canadian geese intermingled with black Coots, and ducks of various species, and I estimated their numbers to be in the hundreds. Shuffling about for position, drifting into the swiftly flowing, deep river to glide to a new spot, these waterfowl were busily settling in for something, or conversing with relatives, re-establishing friendships… who knows for sure. But their noisy bustling was a wonderful sight and it helped swell my already happy heart up to nearly bursting with joy.
With a smile on my face I turned to head back towards my car, since I hadn’t dressed appropriately and my legs and feet were getting quite cold. Seeing the mother and children (I’d heard her voice so now presumed the adult under the parka to be ‘mom’) slowly spreading onto the narrow footworn path I’d taken from the main path towards the river, and not wishing to interrupt them, I turned to the left to follow the main path. After several feet of walking I realized this route would take me much farther from my car before I could head back towards it, over a bridge.
I was too cold to walk the further distance so I turned around, deciding to head back through the family gathering on the pathway. They were climbing up out of the lower ground amidst the copse of trees they’d been in. I was about 20 feet away when the tallest child turned and saw me, a boy maybe 5 years old. He reached his arm out full length to point towards me and exclaim excitedly, “Look Mom! A PERSON!!”
I laughed out loud with the most joyous love overflowing from every part of my being. It was already a magical, meaningful morning for me, but NOW to be someone’s sighting! How fun is that?!
I waved as I laughed again, and said, “Yes, it’s me. A person!” and the mom smiled at me, undoubtedly having known of my whereabouts ever since I arrived in the park, just after them. The youngest one at her feet, about 2 years old, slipped and did the cutest little slide in his snow pants, down the one-foot embankment the snow-blower had left beside the paved pathway. He was smiling at me as he laid there. I said ‘whoopsie-daisy’ and his mom gently asked, ‘Are you alright buddy?’ to which his smiling face, still looking at me, replied, ‘Oh yes, that was nothing.’ My heart melted even more.
My walking had now brought me right amongst them, and I smiled at the mother and said, “This fog is really rather magical, isn’t it?” waving my hand in a sweeping motion, and she replied immediately “It IS rather magical! That’s why we’re out here.” “Yay. Good for you. Have a wonderful day!” “You too” she replied. The five year old ‘wildlife spotter’ called out, ‘There’s a great big hole to play in there!’ indicating the hollow in the wooded copse they’d spent much time in, and where I was walking past. I called back ‘Yay! What fun!’
I was someone’s sighting! I felt like Bigfoot, or better yet, Buddy the Elf in the forest when he was ‘spotted’ during his assistance of Santa’s crashed sleigh in that sweet, funny movie “ELF”. I chuckled and smiled all the way to my car… and all through the grocery store actually. That sweet child, and his enthusiasm at spotting ME coming out of the fog, made my day. How wonderful that I’d chosen to go beyond merely admiring the fog’s beauty from my car, and decided to actually walk in it, correct clothing or not. God gifted my choice with the pure sweet joy that radiates from happy children, and just remembering that moment makes me smile. And the chorus was playing in my mind, ‘We pour out our miseries… God just hears a melody… Beautiful, the mess we are… the honest cries of breaking hearts… are better than a hallelujah’
Yes I wasn’t dressed perfectly for a winter outing. Yes I felt overwhelmed with grief and sadness much of the time, but the beautiful fog captured my imagination and I forgot everything else. I went for it and was rewarded with a most joyful gift. This helps me remember to go with the flow and be open to whatever might happen. Things don’t need to be preplanned or perfect. I am not perfect and that is perfectly alright. God loves me, and all of us, just the way we are… hurting or not… right here and right now. He knows we’re working on it. We’re trying to get better, to be better, but we’re already good enough. Right now.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my frosty and magical morning foray. May nature’s beauty gift you always with joy, love, and learning. And may we embrace the understanding that we are enough, just as we are.
This is what I felt like…
Okay… who am I kidding. You know I’m more like this!