THE EPHRAIM FOG
Early one September morning I stand alone on the end of a Lake Michigan dock in Ephraim, Wisconsin, in Door County, watching the sun rise through the thick fog that has completely covered the village. It obscures the historic white steeple of the Lutheran Church. I watch the sun rise until it is just barely visible over the horizon, just high enough above the fog for me to see the very top of the white cross on the steeple. It seems to be hanging there all by itself, suspended in mid-air, like it is a magician’s slight-of-hand illusion.
My rational mind tells me that the cross is still on the steeple and the steeple is still on the church. But on this September morning, in this fog-shrouded world, I suspend my reality long enough to imagine that this is not an illusion at all-that the white cross is really drifting away by itself.
The very top of the mast on a white sailboat disappears and reappears in and out of the fog as the waves splash against the side of the boat and rock it back and forth.
But the man and the two women walking on the sidewalk never turn to look. They are silhouettes rushing off, anxious to be somewhere else. I want to share the moment. I ask myself, “How would they respond to an old man calling to them to come out of the fog to see the sunrise?” I have learned to be careful with what I do with those moments because the telling so often falls short of the reality.
The sunrise coming out of the fog changes from moment to moment. It tints the edges of the mist-covered clouds in pink and red and blue before the colors disappear and they become just plain clouds again. In a few minutes I am standing in a completely different world from where I had been several minutes before. Everything has changed and the moment is gone. Forever. The cross and the steeple and church have rejoined the world. The mast on the sailboat is now completely visible and the morning clouds became just gray masses floating over the village.
I try to preserve these moments for myself by capturing them in photographs and by writing about them. But words and pictures do not equal what took place that morning on the dock in Ephraim.
The Buddhists have taught me to be aware of each moment, that everything is temporary, that nothing is permanent and to value the inner experience. I have come to understand that some of my experiences are so profound they do not lend themselves to words or pictures. Some of my greatest joys have come unexpectedly out of the fog that I created by suspending reality and by allowing myself to see the extraordinary in the ordinary-the mast of a sailboat appearing and disappearing -a white cross on a church steeple floating away in the fog or the rising morning sun that burns away the colors from the clouds and brings me back to where I belong.
Ed Timmer is a 77-year-old retired high school English teacher with a B.A. in English and History from the University of Sioux Falls and a Master of Science Degree in Education from U.W.-Whitewater. He has produced several personal collections of his writing, primarily memoirs and reflections. One of his collections contains 23 spiritual reflections that he has delivered to a small Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. During his teaching career he created one of the first alternative education programs in Wisconsin for potential dropouts. In 1998 he created a non-profit organization called Family Respite Care to assist the families with special needs children. In 1996 he joined Fair Wisconsin and worked with them presenting information about the Gay Rights Amendment. In 2007 He was awarded the Martin Luther King Peace Award by the Rock County YWCA. He is a widower with three adult children.