We walked into the woods and there was a deep wetness penetrating every last thing. Across my neighbor's field there were the firs, tall, melancholic, and noble, a testament to the wilderness that was once this land. His garden, below the firs, was ripe with tomatoes, the plants tied firmly to posts. There was a compost pile and a greenhouse where he starts his plants in February when the land is frozen. We walked in deeper and could see the mystical whiteness of the fog over the river through the trees. Ordinarily, I don't like the damp wood; it's lugubrious. It lives inside me as a somber mood. Today, I looked closer and it was different.
My dog and I walked down the path and there before my eyes hung a single water bead on the end of a cobweb filament. I touched my finger to it and it rolled down my finger cool. I looked around me and every cobweb, ordinarily unseen, was now made prominent with tiny beads of water. Up close, they were a string of translucent pearls. We walked and saw what my dog had suspected for days, a dead skunk, its hide mowed flat and laced in wriggling white maggots. Further along, the old growth oaks with four-foot diameter trunks. These prodigious trees filled the sky, and I wondered what they have seen. Are they witnesses to the fisher's beheadings? I have found the clean bones of a feast here, in the leaves beneath the trees. One knows the fisher only by its hand-like tracks in the snow; it is a creature elusive as a ghost and deadly: one chewed through the neck of my sister's cat. About a month ago, here, I locked eyes with a coyote. I saw his slim silhouette first, from down the trail, and then, as I got closer, his whole painted face with orange fire markings. He looked deeply into me, then loped on, unfazed, but I felt like I had locked eyes with wildness.
Further along, the fog devours the river. A sandbar floats in white nothingness. Birds make sounds in the white, but I can't see them. The reeds of the marsh are still; there is no wind whispering its secrets today. I often stand on the bridge over the marsh and listen to the wind in the reeds and my dog listens too. Today we move on and the fog begins to give way to shapes, a dock, a hull, a sail. Once I went kayaking up the coast of Beverly in the fog with a friend. Forms and sounds emerged suddenly, as if in a dream. The movement of the boat through the still water had a lulling and hypnotic effect on me. Despite the fact that I couldn't see, I was less afraid than I was curious. I was filled with wonder about how the land transformed, how through the mist, there were disembodied voices, and suddenly bodies perched on rocks, a cormorant with its wet, bat-like wings draped--a totem for some forgotten god.
We passed through the serpentine trees and reached the path opening where there were wild yellow snapdragons and white asters. Beyond them were people setting up for a picnic in a field. Singing could be heard through open doors. It was Sunday. I stopped to look at a mushroom and my dog sniffed it. With the tiny drops around its flat face, it looked like lace. Who would think fungi could be so pretty? We continued on and the webs over the grass were liked draped silk or the dainty lost handkerchiefs of ladies at tea, a glamorous deception of sorts, to all those things hastily rotting in the earth.