Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Fog and The Spring

Spring is nothing and everything.

This particular spring morning was all fog--dense and silver--as I drove up the "Lincoln Highway" towards Jennerstown. No one thinks of this spiraling ridge road with such a respectable name anymore, though. It's just Route 30, the road up to the Laurel Summit, the way to Route 219 and my place of work in Johnstown.

But this road can wrack the nerves in winter. You're on a precipice where a wrong twist of the wheel could take you full on into the path of a semi or tumbling down the steep ridge. There's only one snaking lane in each direction. Snow and ice make it a wheel-gripper, but today, in early spring, it's the fog that dominates.

To be a traveler through fog on a dangerous road you have to relinquish your hold.  You must abandon your sense of normality and instead accept that the only coherent landscape is the one that presents itself a few feet ahead. Details don’t emerge. There is none of the familiar “all at once-ness” about the world. There’s no horizon. No reassurance of the familiar. No security in landmarks and the Summit climb itself disappears: the road, the late March bare laurels, the stone pillars, the fields, the pines. All gone into a mist of nothing that reveals only one thing: now.

And as you force yourself to slow down and try to concentrate, you understand that the present and its landscape are both ideas you've take for granted. Constant stimulation from our environment and constant reminders of time and commitment  work to pull us away from what the present really has to offer. We don’t often exist in each moment; we exist in the just done, in the planning or the next, or, regrettably, in the mulling over of “what happened.”

It takes something dramatic as fog to pull us back. On that road, there is nothing else that matters but the present moment. Nothing else exists.

It has taken me one year to write this. It has taken me this long to allow a foggy morning to process, because the fog, as it will every spring, came back to remind me of its lessons. 

Spring is everything and nothing. The fog--yeah, it is the push into the now, but once the fog burns off, as you ease back down the Summit, as you ease into April and stretch out into May...the everything of green appears. 

Here's the curious thing: the explosion that is spring, after the long slogging whites and grays of winter, can function much like the fog 

If you are lucky enough to live near a wooded area, some unpeopled space, go there and find the green. I’m calling green the new gray—the fog that spring presents for us is the overwhelming, encompassing green that pushes forth new detail, new growth, a new landscape every year.

And once in this new environment, something strange can happen. All those pressing needs can vanish in the green. You can, if you allow, or try, or practice, get pushed into the now. As much as the fog limits, the green--it expands. 

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