I write from the same place I always am: the table with my coffee, the remnants of peanut butter toast, “Murder, She Wrote” playing, Olive grooming herself on the floor. The room is bright, white, and from the window I can’t see much– the view of Manhattan to the north-west and Brooklyn spilling into Queens to the north-east is filled with fog, great big clouds of mist that obscure entirely. A few blocks in each direction are the only blocks that exist, until they are swallowed up by the white.
Lately, on subway and bicycle rides through the outer stretches of Queens, onto Rockaway peninsula, I find myself hungry for edges, staring out windows and over handlebars at the way land looks when it meets water, green fingers extending into the undulating blue. There is something important, restful, about looking onto a scene and realizing that you are at the edge of something. I remember living in that ivied house in Huntingdon, drinking coffee on the stoop and admiring the fog that so often clings to the abrupt ridge that closes the town off from the rest of Pennsylvania. Behind the ridge there could be anything, any number of things, and this willful suspension of disbelief, like the kind you affect when staring at the ocean, squinting into the impossible horizon line, is healthy. You let yourself believe that you are at the end of things. Your map changes, or perhaps ceases to exist.
There is a moment when orientation is perhaps no longer important.
I remember standing on the dome hill that winter, looking down at the town in the ice-night, being able to see it all in one glance, to watch the meager circle of lights burn orange all night and to see the darkness, the edges around it. I knew that we were surrounded by nothing, lots of nothing, and this was the greatest comfort. We’d sleep and see our breath fill the air, and we could have been the only people.
From this window, there are only buildings. Until today, when there is only mist.
In my final year of college, I became accustomed to Lumberjack Mornings– those days in the early fall that are characterized by the most delicious hints of the cold to come, accompanied by thick fog, a morning that lets you believe that you may live in the Pacific Northwest. This feeling is augmented by the fact that most of your friends are rugged, flanneled, bearded, and those mornings I would leave the kitchen screen door open for Roy to come in without knocking and, when I saw his frame fill the doorway, when he emerged from the mist, I’d pour a second cup of coffee. From the large window over the sink we’d quietly watch the fog roll through the backyard, invisible, until it was time to walk through the white streets, to school.
I guess it’s time to get to the cats? If it’s foggy, you’re going to want a sweater.