A Carl Sandburg Epiphany

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.

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6 Responses to A Carl Sandburg Epiphany

  1. Simply breathtaking. Your photo and description prepared me for Sandburg — how did I not know this one?

    Thanks. (Edges, what edges?)

  2. Michael says:

    We saw (and experienced) that fog on the way home from the dress rehearsal of Carmen. Everyone in the car was awed by the experience. Never thought about Carl … but you are right. Catlike.

  3. gerryrosser says:

    Several months ago, I was idling a day away driving around central Illinois looking for photo ops (talk about typing to fast, or non-Freudian slips, I first typed “ops”as “oops” which, now that I think of it, would have worked just as well!), and just casting my eye around.

    I walked around downtown Galesburg, and, for no apparent reason, headed south when I got back in my car. Signs pointed me to the Carl Sandburg house, and I stopped (again, looking for a photo op). The place was a rather unprepossessing little house in a rather unprepossessing neighborhood. I took a picture and left. I tout the “what’s important about [fill in famous personage] is complained completely within [famous personage’s] work or deeds” viewpoint, and do not trouble myself about old homesteads, statues, graves, or whatever. Nevertheless, I went back to my brother’s house in Peoria, where I was visiting, and looked up some Sanford stuff on the web that evening.

    Thanks for reciting the poem.

  4. gerryrosser says:

    Talk about typing too fast, how about “to” for “too!”

  5. gerryrosser says:

    And how about “complained” for “contained!”

  6. Pingback: Poetic catharsis | Nexus

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