As If I Were Weather

This morning is another of those days reminiscent of late nineteenth century London, as described in stories about serial killers going about their business under cover of pea-soup fog. When the air is this opaque, I do not know whether we’re surrounded by thick fog or, because of the altitude of this place, whether we’re the targets of clouds with drowning on their agendas. I suppose it doesn’t matter whether it’s fog or clouds. Thick, wet coatings wash every surface exposed to the hazy vapor. Tree limbs bend under the weight of humid air.

As I look out the window, the opacity of the air diminishes. I can see across the street now. A few minutes ago I could not be sure the trees that were standing there yesterday remained. I wonder if the fog or the cloud sensed that I was writing about it and decided to move along, lest a police officer come calling to investigate an attempted drowning. That could be it.

I came across a book (I’ve not read it; only read about it) entitled London Fog: The Biography, by Christine Corton. I think I want to at least skim the book. For some reason, the title reminds me of another book I skimmed long, long ago entitled (I think), The Autobiography of Jesus. With a title like that, you’d think I would remember it; but I remember only the title, and I’m not sure I got that right. It might be Christ instead of Jesus. Not that it matters. I like book titles that surprise me. A biography of fog surprises me. I can imagine appreciating a book entitled, How Tornadoes Choose Their Victims.  Yes, I think anything that anthropomorphizes natural phenomena has a certain odd appeal.

Lately, I find that nonfiction has more appeal to me than fiction; at least in reading. I’m still intrigued by writing fiction, though I enjoy writing nonfiction. And perhaps it’s obvious that I enjoy marrying the two genres into webs of deceitful entertainment, if indeed my writing is even a little entertaining. Deceit is too strong a word; fantasy fails to capture the threads of reality I weave into my stories; there may be no word for it because there is no call for it. Who knows?

I write about odd topics or off-kilter approaches to common topics because no one seems to want to engage in conversation with me about them. So, I write. I haven’t decided whether it’s the topics that people find off-putting or it’s me. I just sometimes enjoy blue-sky chatter about nonsensical stuff. My wife sometimes indulges me by conversing about nonsense; we’re both on the same page at the same time and we find it fun. I more than my wife. And I far more frequently than my wife.

My thought processes and my writing all drift in the same direction. They attempt to explore who’s thinking these thoughts and who’s writing these words.  The silliness I incorporate into a good bit of my writing is, I think, an effort to lighten up an otherwise deeply solemn search to determine whether there’s value buried beneath layer after layer after layer of veneer. A year or so ago I questioned whether “if I strip away the soft flesh of a life of ease, would there be a worthy skeleton beneath?” A question, I fear, that will remain forever unanswered.

Maybe my superficial explorations of a thousand topics is simply an effort to determine whether I have anything of value to add to the “body of knowledge” on any subject. Throw something at the wall and see if it sticks, is the idea. Maybe that’s it. Maybe fog is the right topic. Or maybe anthropomorphosis. Or dragons or philanthropy or imperialism or witchcraft or poetry or modesty or kindness or vulnerability or…  Almost five years ago, I wrote another post, entitled “Old Men Who Turn to Writing.” The concluding paragraph of that piece included this (edited for clarity):

Old men who turn to writing want to find a part of themselves that’s buried under the mulch of a lifetime of experience. They spend time routing around those parts of their minds unexposed to the elements, looking for something worthy for the world to see. They are looking for ways to know who they are so other (people) might understand (the writer) when (others) read what (the writer) leaves behind. And (the old men) are looking for ways to apologize for mistakes they’ve made, for the people they once were.

As for me, I wasn’t an old man when I “turned to writing.” It has been a life-long interest. It became a passion several years before I retired. I wonder whether passion is the right word. I don’t know that I have any passions. Superficiality is too much a part of me to allow any passions to slip in.

I’m a little like the fog this morning. A moment ago, I looked out the window and it had again become so thick I could not see the street or the trees on the other side. Along came a breeze and the fog lifted enough to allow me to see those trees clearly. And, just now, it descended again, blocking my view completely. That’s me. Thick then thin then thick then thin then thick again. Deep, shallow, deep, shallow. Here I sit in the comfort of my home, comparing myself to expressions of weather. Only moderately arrogant. Now I’m thinking of the fog/cloud as a cocoon, wrapping me in a shawl of anonymity and protection. It’s not trying to smother me. I know that much.

My fingers are tired of all this “me, me, me.” Time to explore the real world and leave my inner world to wither for a while.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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