Posted in Random

The Fog

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I took my dog on a walk the other night, and it was SO foggy out. The whole time, I was mesmerized by it.

It was like the neighborhood was closed for the night, like the curtain had been pulled and we weren’t walking on actual streets, but a set, a neighborhood backdrop on an empty stage. It felt like the world had been turned off. The fog muted / swallowed / absorbed all sound. The only thing I heard was the dripping of rain drops, which was odd because I didn’t feel any. It felt like we were walking in a bubble of light made by my phone’s flashlight, but as if that were fake too, a light just bright enough to illuminate us for the night, not the other way around. It only shone down, at our feet and the sidewalk. If I pointed the beam up, it bounced back in my face like hitting a force field.

I sneezed once, and it was the loudest sound in the world.

Nothing looked right in the fog. I thought I saw a branch or an object in the road, but it had no definition, and when I tried to shine the light on it, the light bounced back on me, keeping the thing in mystery. Later, I saw what could have been a snake in the street, a blurry dark line stretched across the asphalt. When my steps took me closer, I discovered it was a manhole cover, something that doesn’t look like a snake at all. Once, I turned around, and at the end of the street behind us, in the cone of moist light from the streetlamp, I saw another figure or two, and for a moment my breath caught. Their shapes looked so scary, and they made no sound in that weird empty quiet place. But then I blinked, and they became normal silhouettes, two people and a dog, but still their silence and shadowy outlines felt unreal and ghostly. Only now, do I realize that’s how my dog and I must have looked to them too, or to anyone peering out of the fake windows of the fake houses as we walked by in our bubble.

I love the idea of fog. It’s mysterious and creepy and beautiful and suggests rainy nights and cool weather. But in practice, it’s never quite what I expect. The first moment of encountering it is one of amazement and joy and eeriness, but I quickly get confused and frustrated by the very characteristics that make it fog– its blurriness and visual depletion. I find myself peering at / through / around it trying to see it better, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know what I expect fog to look like, what I expect familiar locations like my neighborhood or school to look like in the fog, but whatever I expect, I’m always wrong somehow. Because that’s the whole thing– you can’t see it BECAUSE of the fog.

It reminds me of how I always thought it would be fun to watch the rain through the catwalk at my former middle school. But the beautiful sunny catwalk, on a rainy day, was– you guessed it– rainy. It was cloudy and gray and sometimes covered in condensation, and the rain falling and running on the glass obscured the view of the sky, which makes complete sense but always somehow amazed and disappointed me. Somehow I thought I’d be able to see the rain falling as well as the sky beyond it.

The mystery of fog is part of its attraction for me. Of course it’s that glowing fog off the ocean you really have to watch out for. That stuff is a killer. Literally. Also be wary of gold coins that turn into driftwood and 100-year-old curses. Looks like it’s time to watch John Carpenter’s The Fog again. And then to avoid walks in the fog for awhile…

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Posted in Life, Random

If I Get Eaten By a Chupacabra, Give the Cat His Medicine

Nature gives us gifts every day. Today I’ve already had my share.

It’s summer, which means great bursts of laziness followed by great bursts of creativity, culminating in me keeping vampire hours. I’ve been staying up way too late the past week doing everything and nothing. It’s been great, but I’m determined to get back to a semi-normal schedule. So last night, I promised myself I’d be asleep by 11PM. I went to bed at 10:30. I read my book until 10:59 and turned the light out at 11:00 on the dot.

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The great singer

At 11:15 on the dot, my cat Sneakers began to serenade me.

Ah, nature’s gifts…

It was beautiful really, with low notes and high trills, unexpected breaks and tempo changes. I’m sure some flirty feline out there would have been swept off her paws. Unfortunately, I am not the target audience for this tune, and, sadly, our female cat is deaf, so his song went unanswered, except by me yelling, “Sneakers!!! Kitty kitty kitty! SHUT UP!”

Suffice to say, I was awake until midnight.

As I drifted, finally, into dreamland, I thought, “I hope I can still get up by 7AM. I have things to do…” Then I fell asleep.

Until 4:45AM. When I woke up for no reason whatsoever. Like, REALLY awake. Like, I-have-a-new-idea-for-a-story-and-I-just-remembered-where-I-put-that-thing-I-couldn’t-find-yesterday-and-I-should-clean-out-my-closet-this-summer awake. I tried to ignore it, but there was no ignoring this level of alertness, so I made a few pages of notes for the story (it has potential) and decided to go for a walk.

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The note I left for the hubby

That’s when the real gifts began. While I can appreciate a good cat serenade and a random wake-up call, it was this unexpected morning hour outdoors that I am really grateful for.

I heard doves cooing and saw the shadow of something that might have been a chupacabra but was probably a possum. I saw a roadrunner. I petted dogs and chatted with neighbors about their dogs. I watched the sky lighten so gently that I didn’t see it happen. One moment it was dark; then I turned a corner, and it was light. It felt so delicate, so sudden, that I wondered if I could make the darkness reappear by retracing my steps.

Roadrunners and possums and dogs are common sites in my neighborhood. That doesn’t make them any less delightful, but they don’t cause surprise. What did surprise me was the last gift the morning had to offer. Just before I got home, a pair of bald eagles flew over, low and graceful and… shocking. I didn’t know we had bald eagles in Austin. I’ve certainly never seen any. Before I could doubt myself and wonder if my mind was playing tricks, one of them turned and swooped by again, its large black body, wide wing span, bright white head and white tail. It flew to the top of a big live oak tree and perched for a few moments, sending a squirrel running for cover, before taking off again toward my house. By the time I made the block, both were gone.

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I wouldn’t have seen these beautiful creatures if I hadn’t been nudged awake before sunrise. Their presence definitely felt like a gift.

Now it’s 8:30AM, and I’m yawning in front of my keyboard. I’ve had less than five hours of sleep, but it’s too late to go back to bed. Besides, I’m afraid of what other gifts I might miss.

***

[UPDATE: After doing a little research and talking to some friends, I think the birds I saw might have been caracaras, which look similar to bald eagles and are more common here. However, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife, we do have some bald eagles in Texas. Either way, they were really cool.]

 

Posted in Poetry

Night Walk

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This poem was published in Dreams & Nightmares a year ago this month, and I’d like to share it with you now.

Night Walk

One night I walked outside
to look at the full moon,
but there was no moon,
only clouds and wind
that whispered Go, Go 
into my ears. So I went.
Without phone or flashlight,
sweater or shoes, I followed
my toes up mossy hills,
down dusty ravines,
through fields of flowering flytraps.
I crossed the path of a black cat
and it ran up a tree in a panic.
I traipsed and trudged
over boulders and sand
until I found myself
at my own front door
which stood ajar, paint peeling,
windows smudged and dim.
I looked down,
saw my toenails had grown long,
my hair gray. My skin
wore the lines of my travels,
etched into once smooth terrain.
And I lifted my aged head
and howled at the moonless night.

© Carie Juettner, 2017
Published in Dreams & Nightmares, Issue 106, May 2017