Just when you think you've seen it all...
A familiar saying. Yesterday I lived it. Big time.
I've walked along the banks of central Oregon's Metolius River many, many times. I've seen the Metolius in sunny, rainy, snowy, dry, stormy, calm, and all sorts of other meteorological conditions.
The Metolius is so beautiful, I'm always awed by it when we visit our cabin in Camp Sherman -- a two hour drive or so from our home in Salem.
After a cloudless 94 degree day suddenly turned into a 62 degree afternoon thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail, some sort of rare weather happenstance created fog on the cold spring-fed waters of the upper Metolius -- where family dog and I set out on our usual walk.
Which I quickly realized was going to be marvelously unusual.
A fog was floating above the river. It created an atmosphere, a presence, that threw me out of my customary Metolius River Walk Mental Zone.
I felt blessed, but not by anyone or anything.
I felt worshipful, but not toward any sort of supernatural or transcendent entity.
I felt awe and a sense of mystery, but not outside of the laws of nature which produced the phenomenon that was blowing my mind in a highly positive fashion.
The setting sun illuminated the fog through the Ponderosa trees that line the Metolius. I was struck by how pitiful manmade cathedrals are compared to the beauty nature effortlessly produces.
I felt hugely grateful that in my longstanding churchless frame of mind, I could look upon sundrenched fog-beams as they actually were, rather than as a religious metaphor of God's imagined glory.
Unexpected, unusual, awesome, inspiring -- I began to sense that the feelings being produced in me by the fog were always close at hand (or rather, close at mind). It just takes a Big Knock on my head, in this case by nature, to jolt me out of my habitual ways of looking upon reality.
Since I don't believe in divine miracles, this opens the door to everything being naturally miraculous.
The chance of what I was experiencing some 14 billion years after the big bang did its universe-producing thing was simultaneously vanishingly small and absolutely inescapable.
I only encountered two other people on the trail. They were camping. Asked if the fog was common, I said, "No, not at all. I've walked along this part of the river hundreds of times during the past twenty years. Never seen anything like this before. You're fortunate to be here just now."
Well, as we all are, not matter what the "here" and "now" consist of.
Since I consider that every human life is a singular event, a one-off never to be repeated, no second chances in an afterlife, rebirth, or whatever, each moment, without exception, is an experience that will never be seen again and has never been seen before.
Some moments, of course, grab our attention more strongly than others. But lurking behind the familiar backdrop of our usual everyday life is... NOBODY KNOWS!
I find this marvelous. Mystery is so much more intriguing than knowing-it-all -- another reason I'm happy being irreligious. For devout true believing religious people, God or some other higher power is the answer to all unanswered questions.
For "poetic naturalists" like me, a term I embrace that physicist Sean Carroll uses in his new book, we're pleased to have so much Unknown in the universe.
I stood on the bridge that crosses the Metolius near our cabin and enjoyed the unfamiliar sight of foggy nothingness.
Having been a big Lord of the Rings fan during my college years in the 1960's ( the Tolkien books obviously), thoughts of the Mists of Mordor, which may or may not exist in the trilogy, wafted through my psyche.
If I'd seen this creeping fog while stoned on LSD or mescaline, a common occurrence back then, I might have seen it as malevolent. Or, comforting. Hard to predict how a psychedelic experience unfolds.
Yesterday the fog just struck me as being... what it was. And that was all the profundity I needed or wanted.
After taking a few last photos from the bridge I walked the short distance back to our cabin. Fed the dog. Gave her a rawhide chew stick for dessert. Made myself a cup of coffee. I felt refreshed by the fog.
Fortunately, I knew that my next experience of not being able to see clearly what's going on in my life was near at hand. Like, as close as the next moment.