Seeing Through the Mist
"Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak." ~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.
It was like walking into a wall, a wall that melts away only to recollect itself into thick, impenetrable white. I couldn't see beyond a few steps. If I peered, sometimes in the distance I could make out the barely-there outline of a tree. Foot before foot, on a familiar trail made foreign by mist. I knew exactly where this path led but none of the trees that are my markers were there. This was like walking into one of those unknown cloud lands that docked at the magic Faraway Tree.
Pragmatically, I began walking for medical reasons but essentially, I walk to disappear. When I'm walking, everything is pushed further and further back. Foot before foot, a ritual of stepping out and in simultaneously — out of the world that has expectations and demands reaction, ambition and relevance; into a quiet blankness that isn't empty and yet seems able to swallow everything up. It's peaceful and unabashedly unproductive. But then, I haven't stepped out with the intention of producing anything. Unlike the illustrious list of wandering writers who found epiphanies and revelations during their walks, I look for (and find) silence. I've spent years immersed in noise, reacting as loudly as the next person, losing my voice in the process of yelling. I'm trying to speak less and think more.
I'm trying to see through the mist. It's made everything invisible to me and it strikes me that today, I may have literally disappeared from sight. There is nothing around me but the inaudible breath of trees, the white of mist and the shadow-dark outline of the occasional bird. Foot before foot, the paths curve, distances fold and the world is made almost visible again.
I have my phone with me. Its camera does what my footsteps have done to this path — shrink an immense beauty and contain it. Still, I see these snapshots and there is a part of me that curls into tininess so that I can look up, crane my neck and feel a little of the awe that I knew when I was able to hover between visible and invisible, and see through the mist.
Then I walk out and retrace my steps to the unshrouded world. As I exhale, a puff of white slips out of me and I know I'm visible again.