On September 13, 2023

Livin’ the Dream: Thick fog disorients into white emptiness

 

This will be an adventure, I thought as I pulled into the boat launch. Well, it looked like the boat launch but there was no water to be seen anywhere. Not like that commercial where the water is drained from the ocean because a tidal wave is coming. No, a great fog had settled across the entire town of Chittenden and it seemed as through the reservoir had simply … vanished into think air.

It was like a fog out of the movies, Brigadoon in fact. And so, with visions of Gene Kelly singing about the Heather on the Hill, I threw my canoe onto my shoulders and headed down to where the water should have been. Gradually, as I got closer to the shoreline, I could make out that new long dock and the big rock that mark the launch area. Looking up the ramp behind me, I could no longer see my car and I knew that on this evening I would be truly alone out there on the water.

There was about 10-20 feet of visual, almost like a bubble of vision inside the fog. Like one of those globes that people were eating outside in during the pandemic. And yet mine traveled with me, floating along as if attached to my canoe. After that, there was nothing. Not even a little bit of something. 

Just pure white emptiness.

As long as I kept the canoe within a few feet of shore, I knew where I was. And so I decided the best option was to keep to the shore and follow it along. I’ve paddled Chittenden enough to know where I was based on the abutting features know the bigger turns based on the rocks jetting out into the water. Counting the coves, I made my way down the western shore toward Lefferts and the island. 

It was simply stunning. The shore, vibrant in its full pre-foliage greens on my right and the Great Nothing on my left. There was a definite feeling that if I strayed too far toward the nothing, that I would indeed be pulled into it and lost forever. Not even Atreyu or Falcor would be able to save me. I passed the shadow of one lone fisherman in a cove, our bubbles of light joining and extending my vision just for that moment in time. He could have been a ghost ship, how blurry he seemed out there.

I made it around the island, and then here’s where things got a little messed up. I decided that instead of paddling the shoreline, I would brave the middle of the lake. Just to see what it was like. I could just paddle due north and I would end up on the northern shore where all the campsites were and then follow the shore left to the big rock and then just keep paddling west back to the boat launch.

It was one of the trippiest, loneliest, most overwhelming experiences of my life. I’ve been in the white room while skiing — you know where the powder flies over your head and you cannot see anything but white? I know now that the phrase is a misnomer. There, one can make out the specks of snow around you and even though everything is white, you know you are traveling downhill.

That is not the case in the middle of a body of water in a thick fog. I was surrounded by nothing. I could see nothing. Once I pulled away from the shadows of the shoreline, I could have been going in any direction at all and would not have had any clue.

I found shore on the far side of the lake just as it was getting dark. Now, instead of the shore line of rocks and trees, all I can see is a dark shadow or a light shadow. That is it. I hadn’t thought there could be more nothing, but as darkness descends on a fog, the vision bubble gets smaller until all you see is darker fog and the bow of your canoe.

Paddling in the fog is fun. Paddling at night in the fog is just … kind of scary. Not spooky. Scary. Especially when you’re alone.

But, as I learned while racing canoes 30 years ago, one must keep paddling and eventually you will get to where you are going. Whether you can see or not. Together, my compass and the shadows guided me. My heart rate finally slowed as the boat launch came into view. I had made it. And the next time I paddle in a fog, I might just stick to the shoreline. 

Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, local realtor, bartender and coach at Killington Mountain School. She can be reached at femaleskibum@gmail.com.

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