Denis was surprised when he saw that I intended to go for a bicycle ride at 5:00 o’clock this morning, not because of the time, but because of the fog. A moment before when I got out of bed and opened the draperies, I heard the steady drips of water on the leaves of the huge birch tree which shadows the corner of the house where my bedroom is located. The sound I heard wasn’t rain, just saturated air letting go of its cargo like a mechanical water clock.
Within moments of my departure, I discovered that my eye glasses were an encumbrance and that I could see far better without them, so thick was the air with mist. It was impossible to distinguish anything more than one telephone pole at a time. A red mini-van passed, coming out of nowhere then disappearing almost silently into the fog again. I could hear the vehicle before I could discern its headlights even.
My exposed skin, my hands, my head, my legs, were becoming dripping wet with a film of water, so fine that the small hairs on the knuckles of my hands appeared to be powdered with white dust. What I could see of the surrounding landscape was something out of a renaissance painting, everything softened by the velvet effect of the fog, although interestingly the lack of contrast somehow heightened the obvious geographic distinctions like gullies, fields, trees and ancient pole fences. The corn seemed to grow by the minute, providing the effect of an enormous room covered in a broadloom to the edges of the distant buildings like so much furniture.
The horses were as usual feeding themselves in the corrals along the highway, seemingly uninterested in, and unmoved by, the singularity of the morning weather. I imagine it was too early for the goats, miniature donkey and pot-bellied pig to be let out for their morning romp. I continued on, oblivious to the customary markers by which to judge my progress. It was only when I was almost upon this or that junction that I was able to measure the extent of my advancement. I was in no hurry. It was Sunday morning and the world lay before me for my private enjoyment. I kept waiting for the sun to appear from behind the haze, but there wasn’t a hint of where it was on the horizon. The sky only became more silvery as the dawn enlarged upon the countryside.
As with urban strangers once removed from their vernacular and thrown into a bucolic setting, the fog seemed to dissolve the typical adversarial relationship between me and the creatures of the country. The birds lingered longer on the wires, the cows stared with blank amusement as I rode by and I felt generally as though I were becoming part of the wallpaper.
I heard a vehicle coming from behind in the distance. At length a Subaru station wagon approached then slowed and the driver’s window was lowered. The driver, a young blond gentleman, asked for directions to the Cedar Hill berry farm. I informed him that his destination was in the next village to the north, about ten miles distant. He had a piece of paper in hand, probably a MapQuest print-out, to which he referred, saying “They say to go along the Appleton Road...”, which I confirmed him was what he was doing. My subsequent directions were, as I later reflected after he disappeared into the fog, not completely helpful, as I had told him to turn right at the lights, without having informed me that it was the third set of lights. Perhaps he’ll have figured it out, as the first two sets of lights do not connect with a major highway. I speculated that he had got up early in the City on a mission to pick some fresh strawberries for his wife, as a surprise for her morning breakfast. He may have more to report to her upon his return than he had imagined or hoped.