by Susan G Holland
Revised version of a story originally published at cowbird.com in 2013
Everyone I know recognizes the silence of a snowfall. It’s so quiet,we say. The air answers back with profound silence, as if that is a sound! It isn’t really emptiness so much as fullness. We see the blanketing substance, knowing empirically that it is neither white nor solid. But it FILLS our sight and space in such a substantial way that it got a name, this frozen water/air mix.It has radiance and tactile characteristics that are, for the time being, measurable, palpable, and powerfully endowed. What yesterday was invisible, is today massively filling space so that we cannot walk through it without feeling it, fighting it, slipping on it. What we saw yesterday might as well be gone! Snow dazzles our eyes; it freezes our gizzards!
But it doesn’t haunt like fog.
I put my hand out into the fog and my fingers begin to fade away. I can’t touch this stuff but I can see it.
There is a silence, but it is not a blanketing silence…there are sounds somewhere that have no identity. I can’t place a sound…is it a footstep or a branch against the roof? The little orbs of water are skewing my “knowns.” My ears are not sure where the sound came from.
At dockside the boats make familiar enough sounds..but where? Is that someone moving a piece of gear or is it slack rigging clacking with a bit of wake. What wake?
No one is moving.
No outboards heard or sails being hoisted or hitched.
Even the gulls are quiet.
I can see boat midsections, but no bottoms. I can see masts that stream up into nowhere next to other masts like pencil lines. Then they disappear and other shapes emerge as the fog shifts around.
There is no water below this dock. It floats in nothing, this dock!
I am standing in a place isolated from all else, just as an observer of a vision that came of its own accord and will leave without notice.
My nose is cold, and my jacket is moist.
Will I get back, stepping into the nothing, trusting that dock boards will materialize as I need them, and will I make it to the building ashore?
What if the building is not there? No, it is not there…I can’t see anything, or even smell coffee.
Why do I think it is going to be all right to step along in this direction? Why am I rhapsodizing about such a thing that is not there?
Who is it that is not there?
Is it the fog that is not real, or is it the things that are, today, not there?
But now a shape large as a house is materializing ahead, and yes!.. the smell of coffee.
Originally published at cowbird.com by Susan G Holland ©2013
Original water based gouache painting by Susan G Holland; of Shilshole Marina, Seattle WA.