The Poetics of Freezing Fog
Monday of this week was one of those mornings when my first thought was that something magical happened while I slept. The full-ish moon hovered in the west, heavily veiled by freezing fog - the kind of fog that doesn’t dissipate as much as drape itself around any available limb. Branches, boughs, and blades cradled crystals, shimmered in scant early light. Icy bits floated in the air, frozen fairies swirling in search of unadorned spaces.
That’s the story I told myself when I looked outside and saw our crabapple tree bathed in a pale wintery gown, crabapples uneaten by last fall’s migrating birds covered in February glimmer. There is a reason old clichés like “winter wonderland” still find their way into conversations. It isn’t just snow that changes the landscape, but all the other ways water transubstantiates in winter in Minnesota. Shards of frost that outline everything is one of my favorites.
Winter is long for many people - those whose clothes will not withstand these cold temperatures, whose exposed skin is wounded from frostbite, whose shelter consists not of a house or apartment but whatever they can scrounge up. My thoughts of magic came to me because I see the cold from the sheltered side of the home versus homeless divide.
This acknowledgement was not my first thought. It wasn’t my second thought. It came much later, when I considered the metaphors offered by naked trees, bare limbs, frozen surfaces. It came after I listened to part of an MPR program about students who battle homelessness and what that does to their ability to function during their schooldays. It nudged me to realize magic is not there for everyone.
As the sun melted all evidence of Monday’s freezing fog, I thought about how to make magic work for those whose lives have no room for such things. How to take the deadliness out of winter. How to make homelessness melt away in a place where it has always existed.
The sun can do powerful work on its own, without other suns. People cannot. No matter what we accomplish, part of what we do happens because others exist; not a single one of us has created every item upon which we depend. I didn’t build my house, make my clothes, build my furniture, put my computer together, grow my food, raise chickens or milk cows or figure out the chemistry behind ibuprofen. If I am warm, it is because someone else figured out how to make a furnace. I use what I have to do other things: cook for others, drive students places, write poetry and essays that offer perspective.
I want to create magic. Share the wonder I feel when something like freezing fog changes everything in front of me into another world, another idea, a shimmering thought that is there for only a little while. For magic to work, we have to be still enough and safe enough to recognize it when it appears.
And if a little bit of icy dressing over everything gets my thoughts to move beyond my own delight, maybe that is a different kind of magic that works on all of us who have enough to share.