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COLUMNIST: In a fog

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The day started out white and filmy. The yard was a white floor under white air over dark branches. My car looked out on nothing--the windows blind until I scraped the snow off of them. The ice on one side of my car was overlaid with crystal patterns, a delicate filigree of nature's artistry. I scraped my car windows until I had a narrow slit of a view in each direction. I could just see to the edge of my property.

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I switched on my car stereo to resume an audiobook I had started the day before. I shrouded myself in the enthralling story. In the beauty of the drive on Highway 1 through the Otter Tail County lake country, the fog and the story merged.

Somewhere to the west of Ottertail Lake, as I left the houses behind, the horizon disappeared. White ground drifted into white sky, with only skeletal trees carving themselves into my field of vision. The fog thickened. The sides of my world began to close in. Soon I drove in a small pocket of the world that followed me, close in around me. I could see only fifty feet in any direction before the soft nothing overtook my perspective. I was gently encased in white padding which seemed to protect me from the world.

I didn't recognize where I was. The landmarks melted into the atmosphere. My headlights tinged the white around me yellow, but couldn't extend the visibility. Road signs were legible only as I passed them. I slowed. Part of me hoped the drive wouldn't end and tried to draw my attention away from the errands on the list beside me.

The fog fed a need. I've wanted to escape reality recently. I know this mostly because of how often I find myself thinking about my next opportunity to listen to my recent audiobook of choice. Stories are my escape. I fall into them. A well-written and well-conceived book, television series or movie can have me glued to the speakers or screen and hooked until the next installment. I am embarrassed to admit that my most recent fixation is a vampire romance series written for young adults. The drama of romance distracts me from the more mundane realities and tasks of my life, in which I trudge along, moving forward at the snail's pace of reality. In real life, success takes time and does not have the benefit of a drum roll or dramatic arc. There is no magic to real world success; there is just the short moment when you can recognize the fruits of hours and years of effort. Conversely, everything is immediately possible in the fog of fiction. My own critical voices are smothered by the immediate drama of the story. I have outlets for feelings that don't otherwise like to show their faces.

I floated in my little pocket of Highway 1 in my little Honda, soothed by fiction and fog, protected from the harsh clarity of a sunny day. I held onto the peaceful sensation for as long as I could.

The fog got more and more opaque as I drove south, but somewhere in the vicinity of Fergus Falls, buildings started to come into view. I could see other cars, and my brief recess from the world was at an end. I turned off my audiobook to pay attention to my directions. I looked for a place to purchase coffee as a chemical nudge out of my internal fog. My morning vacation was over.

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