Walking in a Cloud
Last week, I walked through a cloud, surrounded by a veil of water droplets that hushed sound and hid the landscape–a dense fog.
Fog like this appears “if air is cooled enough by its proximity to the ground or water surface for its moisture to condense into droplets." The humidity must be at or very near 100% which means that the air is full of water. Certainly, those were the conditions that morning, a warm night and warming morning, the ground covered with sloppy-wet snow. And this was a true fog, by definition having visibility of less than ¼ mile. In truth, I couldn't see more than 5 feet in any direction, not the front yard or the street, not the trees in the small forest behind the house.
Of course, I went out into it. In spite of its horror-movie quality, the fog didn’t seem frightening. More intriguing. Everything softened and dripping. When I was far enough from the house that it was only a shadow, I stopped to listen. Red-winged blackbirds, those harbingers of spring, called back and forth across the hidden fields and killdeer, too. Everywhere the sounds of water; dripping, trickling, seeping, Alive.
As I walked, the area immediately surrounding me appeared clear as if I were walking in a sort of fogless bubble. I paused often and turned in a circle, reveling in the sense of enclosure. It was as if I were wrapped in the lightest freshest comforter, for me an important image of God’s love.
The fog was equally thick in the forest and in the field, though once among the trees I felt less alone. The trees stood beside me in the fog, their bark beaded with water. Where it wasn’t covered by snow, the ground seeped. The smell was delicious.
At one point, I stood at the edge of the woods and watched a long narrow band of denser fog move up the hill just beyond the trees. I tried to enter the flow, but as soon as I stepped into it, this cloud within a cloud became invisible, just like the fog I had been walking within. I could sense its presence by the dampness of the air against my skin, but I could only see the fog from a distance.
That morning was a lived experience of how the spirit surrounds us always but is usually no more visible to us than water to a fish. In the words of Emily Dickinson:
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --
The Truth, that is the presence of God around us, must dazzle gradually. I can’t force my way in, and I must acknowledge my often willful blindness to it. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” It’s the clear space around me in the fog that is the illusion; it is the mystery beyond that is the truth. Mystery that holds the songs of birds and the laughter of water and the smell of new life—and me.
But maybe my curiosity, my attempts, even my unawareness, are okay. God anticipated all of that and loves me still. You too. Remember that–the comforter of God’s love around you even when you can’t, or don’t choose to, see it. Our work is to take that love in. To let it fill us so full, it spills out of us. Because as Paul also wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)