Three in the morning was that time of day I really wished that I was sleeping when I was on night shift. I can remember so many nights looking at the clock and knowing how great it would be to be in my own bed and sleeping. So at three this morning I wake up and cannot go back to sleep. Lilith Anne senses that I am awake and she slips off the bed and into the darkness. A few seconds later she’s scratching at the door to be let out. Sigh. I get up and let all the dogs out, but Tyger Linn stays put; she’s had all the dark nights in the woods that she wants and she will sit this out, thank you very much for asking begone now.
The Cousins go with her, Queen of All the Packs that she is, but they return sooner than she does. I’ve left the back doors open and as I am trying to get back to sleep I am also listening for the Coyotes. They were here last night, very early in the morning, and I have no idea why, but it is their woods. Lilith alone isn’t a good thing if they’re around but I am certain the Cousins would stay out with Lilith if they scented the Coyotes. All of this is floating around in my head as I drift towards and away from sleep. There is the familiar noise of the doggie door to the porch and I count snores; two on the floor and one on the bed. Lilith has returned.
Unlike Tyger Linn, who assumes both the sofa and the bed were installed in the house for her convenience, Lilith will not get up on the bed without asking. If I’m asleep, she’ll lie down on the floor rather than jump up without permission. I put a hand out and Lilith nuzzles it, and I tell her to come on up. Quick and silent, a sixty-five pound canine hits the right spots without undue fuss or landing on body parts, and within a minute Lilith is snoring, too.
With the back door open I can feel the fog move in. It’s a warm wet feeling that also brings a chill as the moisture causes the temperature to drop. Tyger Linn wakes up and recurls herself in a tighter striped ball, snugging to me for warmth. I hear no owls, no Coyotes, no sounds in the night but that of the fog slipping in between the branches of the trees and moving over the ground and the roof. It’s the same sound a river makes late at night, the mass of water over the Earth underneath it, water on water on water, on Earth, and now we’re the river bed, still not sleeping, but listening and feeling the water as it moves over us. We’re the bottom dwellers now, in the dark and mysterious place, with deadheads and limbs waiting to snag the unwary line. Navigation here is wicked, at best, for there are many obstacles for the bottom of any craft to hang. No nets could bring forth a bounty from this body of water for there are giant plants that live on the bottom which would eat any net cast here. Long lines might snag, too, so there is safety for those of us who live in the crannies and crevices of the house, under the protection of the trees.
I hear traffic in the distance, a lonely truck slowly making its way through the darkness and the river of fog. There are deer out there, I know there are, and the driver of the truck knows it, too. Not too many animals move around at night when there’s the flood of the fog, but there’s always some animal that gets spooked or is curious or just wants to move, like Lilith did just a few minutes ago. I count snores and there are four. The sound of the truck disappears into the early morning darkness and I listen for more. Soon traffic will pick up and instead of there being one or two vehicles there will be a half dozen or so. That’s heavy traffic out here, mind you.
Tyger’s head comes up as a branch falls somewhere in the woods. She tenses, waits, listens, and the Cousins get up and mill around. As long as Lilith Anne stays down they’ll stay in. If Lilith launches then it’s on. But the Queen stirs not at all for a random noise in the night. Somewhere out there, actually in the kitchen, is coffee, and my mind begins to crave it. If I even so much as sit up everyone in the room will think it’s breakfast time, so I debate; coffee or more attempts at pretending to sleep?
Once there is food in bowls and less of a riot in the house, I sit on the porch steps and listen to the fog. There is the sound of a light falling rain, and there is the sound of the drops of water that are easing off the roof, and there are the sounds of cars and trucks in the distance now. But the fog has settled over Hickory Head like an ocean, with currents and waves and eddies and I can hear it with my soul. Here is something vast and immeasurable, yet it is also transient and ethereal. I can hear the sounds it makes between the trees and the noise that it makes as it slowly flows across the fields. It scraps across the surface of the pond and it crashes into the trees on the banks, and it roils in treetops and it swirls in front of me as if asking me to dance.
My eyes are closed as I breathe in this fog, this river, this ocean, this air, this water, this breath. Coffee is the defibrillator, the hook that hauls me out of the dream world completely, and drops me hard on the reality of hard land and clothes again. I have to drive through the fog in an hour, and hope it doesn’t kill me.