Friday, January 16, 2009

Seattle right now is covered in fog, fog that thickens and disperses and then gathers itself again, and has been for days. Late at night it muffles everything beyond a few steps, muting the sulphur glow of the streetlights over my head. Anything can happen in these fogs, hidden from sight after only a few steps. Anything frequently does happen. Last night I took a small walk through this fog, thinking about what it must have been like to have grown up on the sort of farms that supplied to perfumeries in France a hundred years ago, harvesting jasmine and lavendar instead of corn, arms coated in fragrance and sticky with pollen. About whether in the harvest season your dreams would be scented lightly with the flowers you gathered by the armful during the day. About whether the flowers ever stopped being beautiful and started to be only work.

This fog is the sort that steals the thoughts right out from your own brain, and it was with surprise that I suddenly found my head surrounded by a cloud of jasmine, at night in the wintry north, where no jasmine should be. I briefly considered that perhaps someone wearing jasmine perfume had walked down the street shortly before me, leaving their scent to linger in the fog. But this isn't a fog for simple explanations, and besides, perfumes and flowers weigh differently on the brain. This was not that.

I had stopped walking and stood there for a moment, breathing in the ghost of a smell that I associate with hot summer nights, puzzled. I have been exhausted lately, thinking slowly, and it took me a minute to realize, oh, it's the fog. It steals thoughts.

Emily Dickinson said, "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." I turned the corner and walked back around the block and home, vaguely happy that I had been thinking of flowers and not knives.

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