For Thomas Fiffer, a misty morning drive brings back memories of heartbreak and summons a vision for the future.
This morning the mist was so thick I could barely see to the edge of the yard. Instead of the glorious colors of sunrise I’ve shared with you here, I looked out at a blue-gray blanket wrapped around the barren trees. Crossing the bridge over the river with my boys on the way to school, we couldn’t make out the water or the marshy reeds, much less anything in the distance.
I sat in my sacred space and looked out the window at the same mist. It was quiet. I saw what looked like the outline of a bird in the pattern of the tree branches, a bird with a huge wingspan trapped and entangled, frozen, and eager to be free.
I heard a call to speak for others, as I often do here, giving voice to thoughts and feelings I know—or imagine—friends are experiencing, laying out pathways, revealing truths I’ve learned to see from the outside that many find difficult—or impossible—to see from within.
When we speak for others, they join us.
The missing become present and accounted for, and they begin to speak for themselves.
And suddenly, a thunder of voices is heard.
Did I just write that?
Often these posts take on a life of their own.
On the way to school, my older son asked if the mist was low clouds, if the clouds had come down to cover the ground. We decided it was fog, and while we didn’t have time to look up the distinctions of different forms of precipitation, I was left with the question of what, exactly, is mist?
Mist obscures vision.
And when vision is obscured, we miss things.
When we can’t see clearly more than two feet in front of us, what lies ten or twenty or two hundred feet ahead remains a mystery. A mist-ery?
All week, I’ve been thinking about my next novel chapter but not writing it, because I couldn’t see what it would be about. The last chapter started with a clear plan, but this one was evading me. Monday night, I found a way to start it, and the mist began to dissolve. There’s nothing like taking a step into the swirling fog to figure out what lies in front of you. The chapter is called Vanishing Points, and I realized this morning that vanishing points appear closer in the mist, that mist makes our steps tentative because we can’t see where we’re going, and the end point of our journey, or even just the next stage, is unclear.
I thought about my own journey, interwoven into the novel, and I remembered a day like this one, around the same time of year. A day I came home to find a car sitting in my driveway, the engine running, and a small man with silver-rimmed glasses and a worn tan raincoat inside. His name was Fausto (yes, that was really his first name), and he was the process server for the divorce papers my first wife had filed. He got out of the car and handed me a manila envelope with a slightly sheepish look on his deeply-lined face, this deliverer of dissolution, this supplier of separation, this purveyor of protracted pain—a detached look that said, I know things suck for you right now, but I’m only the messenger.
Standing on my driveway that night, I could see the vanishing point of my marriage, though in truth the relationship had vanished long ago, and all that remained was the legal union, a meaningless certificate, and a set of future obligations and responsibilities. And though there was no mist in the evening air, nor is there anything now fogging my memory of that moment, I couldn’t see then past the two feet Fausto was standing from me. I couldn’t see that as one life was vanishing, another was materializing. A life already waiting. A life unseen, unlived, and heretofore unclaimed. All I could do was walk into that life, into the mist, without regret, with courage, and resolve.
Originally published on Tom Aplomb.
Photo courtesy of author