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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

A Lesson from Fog in the Valley

The daily drive into the Snohomish Valley provides ample opportunity to notice the patterns of nature. At the top of the Seattle Hill Road, an opening in the trees reveals the valley below and provides an unobstructed view of the jagged Cascade range on the other side.

In winter, the fallow fields often become soggy, providing rich habitat for migrating snow geese. The gullies between the precise lines of blueberry bushes that fill the valley floor often become flooded. And when the cold sets in, a frosty wonderland of broken stalks and icy puddles often erupts overnight.

Then in spring, corn fields emerge on the south side of the road promising future mazes that will delight families when the fall holidays arrive. The marching of summer days coaxes the stalks ever higher, obscuring vision to south, and I drive as though through a maze myself.

But it is the fall that brings the grandest version of this valley on my early morning drives. The sunrise sky in the all the previous seasons had been like Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. But this first fall sunrise sky was Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,”the reds and oranges battling each other, exploding above the jagged peaks and wrapping them in smoke-like clouds.

So compelling were these skies that I began rising earlier and earlier just to catch another heart stopping glimpse. To no avail. My subsequent valley views have been filled with thick mists. Even more disappointing, on the mornings when my home skies are clear and I reach my viewpoint full of anticipation, the valley has been filled yet again and again with a fog obscuring all but the road in front of me.

One such morning, I noted my inner intense dissatisfaction with the fog as I slowed down even more due to its thickness. I found myself almost angry that nature was not providing me with a sunrise that would fill my soul, as though I deserved an ecstatic experience every day. In my grumbling, I paused to look out my windows, blurred by the thick moisture.

The landscape was awash with gray. Ghostly stalks of corn peered at me through the mist, lined up like soldiers ready for battle. Blueberry bush tufts poked up from beneath the fog like washed out, perfectly aligned bouquets. And the road literally disappeared in front of me, giving me vision for only several yards instead of hundreds.

In truth, I realized that like the enshrouded valley around me, my own inner weather was often overcast. And I had let my limited vision in those times affect my view of the whole world while waiting for the inclement weather to lift and bring clarity. My vision had become earth bound.

And my hungering for that fall sunrise to be “like it was” simply mirrored a deeper desire for the rest of my life as well.

In the onslaught of what has been happening around me in this last year, I had lost the perspective that the sun still bursts into the world every day, no matter the weather, and would do so until the end of time.

Like most of us, I think, I have become hope starved this year. But hope is not nourished drawing from the past. Hope is not nourished by clinging to mountain top experiences and trying to force them on the present. Hope is not nourished by wishing away a state of dissatisfaction.

Hope is claiming a certainty above our current vision. Hope is choosing a reality that is often not seen at ground level. And hope is knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what is above our own inner weather is glorious.

So tomorrow, when I crest the hill, I expect the valley will be filled yet once again in a layer of moist gray. But in my heart, I will choose to hear the ” 1812 Overture” filling the horizon beyond my vision. And I will rejoice in the reality of a hope that lives beyond my current circumstance.

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