My Clothesline and Night Visitors in the Fog

       “I think we need a clothesline.”

       “Why, Mom? We have a perfectly good clothes dryer! Do you really want to hang out the laundry?”

       “No, well, yes. What I want is to get out and enjoy our amazing view of these Blue Ridge Mountains! You guys work and play out in the yard all the time, while I’m cooking and cleaning inside. At least I could get outside to do laundry…

      “…on the nice days.”

      My child was referring to our constant fogs. When they rolled in, they robbed us of our long-range views for weeks at a time. Yet after a few years of living on our high property, we still tended to take our majestic position for granted. Knowing the green valleys, and rows of splendor lay beyond our sight, hidden for just awhile, we went about our business. When the clouds lifted and our glorious view opened up, we kept going about our business. Looking back all those years ago, I’m chagrined at how I would stand at the kitchen sink, looking down at my dishes, instead of up in expectancy and delight.

      So Hubby constructed a clothesline on the side of the house with the unobstructed panorama. Laundry basket on my hip like a pioneer woman or a 50’s television mom, I’d kill two birds with one stone – feast my eyes on the layers of blue blanketed out before me, while hanging the towel or sheet on the line.

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    The plan worked. With some bonuses.

   While hanging the laundry one day I was regaled by a front row seat to watch our cat teach her newly weaned kittens the game of Mouse or Dinner, whichever way you want to look at it. While the kittens played happily in the open furnace room near my lines, the mom headed out to the woods. In a few minutes she returned all business-like with a small gray prize in her mouth. From my position, I watched her model the game masterfully. She’d drop the mouse on the floor, then chase, maul, and toss it, letting it go over and over again. The kittens’ heads darted back and forth, poised in fascination.

    By the third mouse the kittens had the process down. Their little bellies full, the mice having fulfilled their duty, Mom’s lesson came to an end. As I sat on the grass near the clothesline and relished the vista that in some silly way felt like my own, I wished I possessed similar finesse in mothering my own little ones! But at the very least I modeled, for a while, the importance of stopping to enjoy a delicious date with a patch of green.

   The mountains doled out many such experiences, much like hot-from-the-oven cookies into stubby fingers; and like the cookies disappear, we’re tempted to wonder if some of them really happened. Sometimes the fogs seemed oppressive.

    One of the kids would say, “Hey, Dad, let’s go get a pizza! This fog is getting to me.”

    So we’d climb into the car and head down, knowing our visibility would be crystal clear in a few miles. One night after supper at our local Pizza Hut, we wound our way back up into the thick soup of it. As we maneuvered the curve of our horseshoe driveway, our hawk-eyed teen, Jessica, was the first to spot “something” standing directly in front of our van.

    “Oh my goodness, Dad, what in the world? Do you see what I see?”

     Our other teen, Josh, chimed in. “You’re kidding…is that a cow?”

     Then one of the little ones yelled, “And look! I see a goat, too!  Daddy, where did they come from? Can we keep them? Please, Daddy?”

      Puzzled, we just sat in the car and stared. That’s when my husband spotted the dog. “Look, kids, there’s a strange dog there with them.”

     A cow, a goat, and a dog.

     We waited for our visitors to make the first move. Though each faced slightly different directions, their shy, quiet, sort of are-you-friends demeanor made us think they came as a set.

   “Dad, do dogs, cows, and goats go out together at night? Could they be lost?”

   Since we’d moved here from the city, we wondered if we should think this odd. Fences break. Animals escape. But do they get lost in fog?

   When they moved a bit and let the car go through and park, we felt safe enough to talk to them and even try to touch.

    “Be careful, kids, each one of them could hurt you.”

    “Daddy, the cow let me touch him for a second!”

     The more timid goat stayed back. Though the dog also kept his distance, he seemed okay about being in our yard. My husband, a sort of dog aficionado, knew he was the ranking officer in the group, and intended to hold his ground. As he moved around the others we got the impression he protected the larger strangers, yet considered us safe.

     Brrrrr…suddenly, the cold reality of time hit us. With little ones now way past their bedtime, we looked back at the three, and went inside. In a few minutes, the cow settled down to sleep in front of our youngest son’s window. Caleb could hardly contain his joy. The goat and the dog moved away from the light of the house.

      Overnight a cold wind had blown the fog away and we woke to sunshine gift-wrapped in sparkling dew. Had they been a dream? Six souls wanted to know. While the others ate and dressed, I sneaked out ahead. Normally I would be last out the door, the City Slicker Mom. But clothes left overnight on the clothesline drew me. Shivering in my robe, I rounded the front of the house. Sure enough, they had stayed all night. Each one occupied a different piece of ground, quiet, shy, as the night before. Over the expanse, feathery wisps of clouds hung like lint below me.

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    Under the clothesline stood the dog, head high, sniffing the air. He looked out across the vast dip of the earth in front of him, now in clear view. His uncanny concentration caused me to hurry back into the house.

   “Hey, kids. Eat fast and come see what the animals do now. I think something’s up.”

   It couldn’t have been two full minutes later when the kids crept out softly, expectancy pounding in their chests. But no animal could be found. All three, gone.

    “Mom, did it really happen?” asked our Caleb. He seemed so downcast, I almost wanted to cry. But then he brightened. “Oh, it sure did, Mom. The cow left us something behind to prove it.”

     Many times after the visit, when we drove out around our paradise, one of us would comment, wondering aloud about the three visitors, if we’d ever ever see them again. Months later, sure enough, my husband spotted the dog behind a fence on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the crow flies about four miles away. Near him we saw a goat. And behind them? Of course, a lazy herd of cows.

     Do you remember a time that fog pulled you off course and you had to find a place to rest on life’s journey? Would you know the fullness of joy without a blinding fog now and then to remind you how important sight and sunlight are?

     My clothesline brought a new appreciation of our view, and caused me to slow down a bit. I learned to appreciate our gift more – on the days we had it. What do you do to make sure you really see, when you can?  

   Time also, like fog, tries to erase our stories. Fog of memory obscures lessons learned and sunny days fully relished. We must not let it. Write yours.

   

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