Novelist E. L. Doctorow says, "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
Lately, not only writing has felt "like driving at night in the fog," but homeschooling has too. And living. I can't seem to read the terrain or find a horizon line. I feel disoriented. In the topography of my life, I've been in places like this before. I would much prefer if my life were laid out on a GPS map, obstructions clearly listed, speed limits noted, arrival time stamped. But it isn't. We're not meant to see our lives like that. We're only meant to see what's right in front of us, a bend in the road, not the entire route. Driving on a foggy night is slow-going. That's how life feels these days—slow progress. In homeschooling, are the kids understanding and really learning? Where is all this lived life going? Are there enough words in me? Progress feels nebulous. I believe in what I'm doing, in the choices I've made, but what I can see isn't progress, it's light illuminating minute water particles, suspended in the dark, murky air. It's the next 10 feet in front of me. And then I travel that and I get to see 10 more feet.
One very foggy morning while my parents were visitng last month, we took a walk to the pond with the kids, just for the fun of it. The kids marveled, we couldn't see farther than 30 feet ahead of us. Familiar landmarks would emerge from the fog suddenly. Our favorite stand of trees appeared where before there was only dense, gray fog. Then a neighbor's house. The whole world was thrillingly remade. Popsie, rather like our favorite stand of trees, surprised us: he began reciting a poem he memorized in seminary.
"Peering into the mists of gray, that shroud the surface of the bay.
Nothing I see except a veil, Of fog surrounding every sail.
Then suddenly against a cape,
A vast and silent form takes shape.
A great ship lies against the shore,
Where nothing has appeared before.
Who sees a truth most often gaze, Into a fog for many days.
It may seem very sure to him, Nothing is there but mist clouds dim.
Then, suddenly, his eyes will see, A shape where nothing used to be.
Discoveries are missed each day, By men who turn too soon away."
I keep thinking of this, this observer who patiently waits and watches before someting new reveals itself. I marvel at the patience and intention and the trust. The trust that something is out there. I marvel at the beholding. Rather than getting very impatient and irritable with my present fog, I wonder if I can simply gaze at it and wait for whatever's next to reveal itself. I wonder if I have that discipline, to gaze fixedly and wait for the Lord.
Today Finnly watched a cardinal on a branch crack open a sunflower seed, eat it, and swoop away. Sometimes he goes outside, climbs the maple tree next to our birdfeeder, and sits very still for several minutes, waiting for the birds to forget he's there and come very close. He knows how to wait and watch and behold. He knows how to trust that something beautiful and startling will reveal itself to him.
This is how I am going to begin observing myself in this foggy place of life: with expectation, with hope, that the work I'm doing, though slow, but sure.
We are going somewhere. If only I can learn to trust the fog.