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24 March 2007

Little Cat Feet, With The Ferociousness of a Mountain Lion


The fog comes/ on little cat feet
-- Carl Sandberg

Sandberg was correct: fog can be stealthy, like a cat, quietly moving in, hovering for a short time, then, uninterested, moving on. But not always.

The fog this evening came with the roar of the flooded creek, as if the sound of the rushing water was made as the stream released molecules into the air. Freed by the transformation, the fog kept up with the water's flow, tumbling downstream, swirling around the branches in counterpart to the water's eddies around the lower trunks. Elsewhere, in small, quieter pools on newly swamped banks, it lingered, hovering over loose leaves and branches, beer bottles, an old shoe, and other detritus loosened from the mud to be cast ashore further downstream.

I was standing on my drive, looking at the daffodil blooms, recent additions with the warmer weather, when I looked south across the road. At first I thought there was a fire in the woods, that the fog was smoke billowing along the greenway trail. As I hurried towards it, I realized that it was both to the east and the west in thick patches that obscured the road. As I neared the banks I realized that much of the trail was underwater and that the creek -- in summer shallow and calm enough to cross by stepping on a few large rocks -- had breached its banks and was almost to the road.
I sat on a portion of the trail still above the water's edge, but close enough to feel that it was just a little dangerous. A misplaced foot in the mud might have landed me too close to the water, but I not only wanted to snap these photos, but also to feel the power of the water flowing quickly. An out-of-place, bright orange construction fence, not removed after the trail was completed in late fall, was the only marker of where the bank usually is. A pair of ducks stood on a narrow hump of land around a tree. The female was distressed. Her nest, once thought safe near the tree, must have been underwater. As a new batch of fog neared me, I could feel the change in the air temperature. The cloud was preceded by an earthy smell of mud, fish, water. My skin tingled as the fog surrounded me on its journey downstream. I was awed by this phenomena of nature, refreshing as being caught in a sudden summer storm.

"Water is the most corrosive element there is," a plumber told me once. At the time, I didn't understand the wonder in his statement.

Corrosive. Powerful. Swift. Awesome.

11 comments:

Michael said...

It must be nice but intimidating to live so closely to all this. We're just getting all wrapped up to go off to our nice, safe, urban park. Well, safe during the hours of daylight, anyway. Provided you stay out of the undergrowth.

chiefbiscuit said...

Oooh this made me come over all shivery! I loved my tour through the mist. You brought it all right to my doorstep - with pictures and sound. You use words well - pleasing to read.
I had forgotten that poem of Sandburg's - it's a poem that I loved when I first read it in 1971 - See, I can even remember the year!

jenclair said...

That's a lot of water, Cam. You managed a great description in pictures and words.

Brad said...

Beautiful descriptions and photos. A wonderful way to start my day.

Cam said...

Michael, We do live close -- about 200 yards (~185 meters) from the creek -- but because of an higher elevation we are even outside of the 100-year flood zone. So I mostly think of it being nice to live close, but don't tend to think of it as intimidating. I'm sure that perspective would be different if my home was endangered by the floodwaters. Because of a levy, even houses closer to the creek than mine are not in the flood plain, but I bet they sometimes get soggy basements!

To give you an idea of how swollen the creek is -- that orange fencing in the last photo is on the near side of the creek. The space between where I shot the photo & the fence is where the trail that I walk or bike is located. I couldn't judge how deep the water is because the natural landmarks seem so displaced. I'll have to make note of that in a few days when the waters recede.

Jen, & Brad: thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this.

In looking at the photos again, I think the first does looks sort of other-worldly. It was almost dusk when I snapped this. I'm surprised that it turned out at all.

CB: You made me think about when I first encountered Sandburg's Fog. I think it must have been 1972. I think of his poem Chicago whenever I take the train from the airport into the Loop. Hog butcher for the World... City of Big Shoulders. Fog was also published in the same volume (Chicago Poems, 1916) and both poems have stayed with me since I first encountered them.

Courtney said...

Beautiful post and beautiful pictures! Your writing is lovely here.

Dorothy W. said...

Oh, you make me want to go spend hours outside ...

Stefanie said...

I love the fog. What beautiful phots and beautiful description too!

Camille said...

Those are definitely really cool pictures. I agree with Michael that it looks intimidating to live so near what looks like such a big flood. :) The fog photos are beautiful.

Emily Barton said...

Wow! Just wow! Words, photos, water, everything...

danielle said...

What cool photos! Fog is kind of creepy, but it looks kind of cool, too. How often is someone just there watching the fog roll in?! It reminds me of The Woman in Black--a nice atmospheric book! Do you often see this?