Harvesting Fog

In the fore word [her usage] to her 2010 collection of poems entitled Harvesting Fog, Luci Shaw describes the process by which the residents of Lima, Peru gather water. Lima is on the seacoast. Relatively little rain falls there, but the climate is persistently damp and foggy. Residents will hang bits of cloth and netting on balconies and clotheslines to absorb moisture from the fog. The moisture is then wrung out into vessels for storage and use.

Luci Shaw likens the process of writing poems to harvesting fog: “Something’s in the air, a word, and impression, a rhythmic phrase, a sound, a small connection. You grab it and then you catch more drops and pool them altogether, and wring some fresh meaning out of them, as if by miracle this mystery, this moisture becomes a new entity that satisfies a thirsty imagination.”

Material for this journal collects in the same way. On Tuesday, 18th February the opportunity to collect observations and sounds from the natural world was great. It started in Ramsey, as the route from the train to the office took me on foot along a stretch of Lake Street that is currently closed to motor vehicles. The lack of traffic resulted in an unusual silence and allow the calls of a red-winged blackbird, a red-bellied woodpecker, a nuthatch, and a tufted titmouse to be heard quite clearly.

Later that day a robin lit in a tree a few feet from where a coworker and I were standing waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the train station. It reminded me that robins have been in the area all winter long and that in fact I had been seeing and hearing them for weeks already.

Back at the Passaic train station a bird that sounded like it was in distress was calling from the top of the tree. The call was not familiar, but it turned out to be a starling. The starling is recognized to be an invasive species, but it’s ability to mimic the sounds it hears is still astounding.

Finally, on the walk back home through the park, goose tracks along the path that leads out of the part made it clear that the geese had discovered the acorns that the squirrels had pulled out of their caches, and that we had mentioned here earlier in the month.

God’s blessing and mercies come to us in this way. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Like the manna that the Israelites collected in the desert after their escape from Egypt, they provide the sustenance that we need in the amounts that we need. Maybe we think we need more, like the meat from the cooking pots of Egypt (Exodus 16) but God’s provision is always sufficient if we are open to receiving it.

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