Past all the houses decorated for Christmas, where the grey street gives way to graveled road at the crest of the last ridge, I looked down into the canyon where the river runs concealed below wooded cliffs. Beyond the river, I can get a glimpse of a side canyon running northeast. Through gaps in the trees, I saw that canyon full of billowing white, which at first I mistook for smoke. Then, I realized that it was fog. It seemed a strange and mysterious presence, floating there below the green, deep-shadowed woodland.
I imagined what it must be like in that canyon, with the sound of its stream muffled, the moisture dripping from the trees, all the shapes vague and ghostly. I wanted to be there, and to vanish into that unattainable mystery. It seemed as though one might pass into that white veil and, like Rip van Winkle, emerge twenty years later to a world completely changed; or, perhaps, find there some hidden place, a Brigadoon or Shangri-la, unknown to the everyday world. Something about the moment called for a legend.
But the everyday world prevailed, as it does, and I returned home along the fading street, walking on a golden path of damp pine needles. Blue jays squawked in the bare trees, and Christmas lights twinkled through the windows of ordinary houses. Briefly, the sun found one of those patches of blue, and the world glowed with golden light and green reflections, and then darkness fell.
In the east, the moon rose unseen behind towering cloud banks until it was high enough to glow through the thinner clouds which scudded across the sky above the ridge. In the open patches, stars gleamed. Later, the nearly full moon was periodically unveiled by the rushing clouds, and the stars would be dazzled out, but the drops of water clinging to bushes and blades of grass would then flash out with reflected moonlight, as though the stars had reappeared on earth. Gradually, the clouds were carried away, and the moon dominated the clearing sky. The trees cast their creeping shadows on the deserted ground. In the cold stillness of the night, there was no sound of bird or insect or croaking frog. No faint clop of deer hoof fell on the pavement, and there was no rustle of scuttling raccoon in the brush. As the moon settled behind the western woods, I was alone in the darkness, with only the pale ghost of my breath floating out on the chill air. When I sleep, I suspect that I will dream of that fog-filled canyon, and visit whatever desire of my subconscious it is that gave rise to that fancy I experienced when I stood at the wood's edge in the grey afternoon.