Beauty in Our Mist

When I was a child, I didn’t think much of poetry.

Sure, I loved Robert W. Service’s impertinent “The Cremation of Sam McGee” as much as any 9-year-old boy with a slightly perverse sense of humor could. And I was pleasantly tolerant of my parents’ efforts to imbue me with a deeper sense of the power and beauty of the medium. But for some reason, it never really stuck.

Yet despite my avowed (and now, lamented) lack of poetic appreciation, I still had a favorite poem: Carl Sandburg’s “Fog.”

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

In all honesty, I can’t say exactly why I loved it so. There weren’t any deep thoughts behind my favoritism; or if there were, I can’t remember them now. But there was something so captivating about the imagery of those few brief lines. “Little cat feet;” “silent haunches; “looking;” always, always looking.

In fact, thinking back on those days, I realize that I’ve always been fascinated by the almost-aliveness of fog; by its muffling and soothing and mysteriousness. And I suspect my attachment to Sandberg’s poem was partially because it expressed my instinctive fascination as well as anything I’ve ever run across.

…at least until I ran across Simon Christen’s “Adrift” a few days ago. (There’s an HD imperative with this one. And I highly recommend full-screen, as well.)

In a way, Christen and Sandberg are presenting fog under two very different aspects. The poem focuses on how it drifts silently in and just…sits, watching. (OK, so maybe there’s something a tad creepy about that imagery. And maybe my attachment to “The Cremation” and “Fog” aren’t actually that disparate.) Christen’s piece, on the other hand, is far more dynamic in its pretension. His fog is a seething, breathing, constantly shifting being — air, but air that you can see.

The magic and mystery are there in either case, though. And I find myself just as mesmerized now as I was when I was a child.

(HT to FilmSchoolRejects and to my fellow Patheos colleague, Alissa Wilkinson.)

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