Driving home from school today (Our school does not recognize Columbus Day), I had an epiphany. The temperature had been beautiful, in the mid 80s, and then around 4:30 it began to drop rapidly into the upper 60s which generated fog all along Lakeshore Drive. It was, in fact, magical. The sun would be shining, then traffic would enter a kind of whiteout where the entire cityscape of Chicago suddenly disappeared. It was like driving in the flatlands of Nebraska, away from any signs of civilization (except for the cars, of course). The sun was a white ball at which one could directly stare, almost full moon-like, trying to burn its way through the gray.
Then suddenly we were in the sun again, skyscrapers reappearing, urban life as formidable as before. A low hanging cloud appeared around the base of the clover-leaf high rise on the lake. This is where the epiphany happened.
This low hanging cloud was moving very slowly, as was the traffic, curling around the first five floors of the building, strings of it reaching across and seemingly through the cars themselves and toward downtown. We were in a transparent piece, —veil-like, feathery, staticky, furry– which played with my visual acuity and sense of depth and then, like a flash, Sandburg’s poem about fog exploded in my brain.
I had always thought this poem, well, a bit trite. But as I was sitting in that traffic, I had to admit that the low hanging clouds— their color, their texture, and the way they were moving– were exactly like a cat– cautiously smelling, gracefully moving, exploring its space. I was convinced that Sandburg was describing the fog I experienced today as precisely as if he were in the passenger seat next to me, sharing my cold coffee left from the morning and munching my leftover lunch.
So here’s to you, Carl, and your imagery which has finally reached me after oh so many years…… and after quite a bit of softening of my many edges.
by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.