Mysteries of the Mist

By John Warden

Coming down from the Clapperton Creek summit on the Coquihalla Highway in B.C., we were into the clouds. I remarked to my wife Debra that at least the rain didn’t have far to fall. And fall it did, in sheets and torrents. The windshield wipers were ’slapping double time’ as brake lights and headlights probed through the rain and traffic slowed. Away from the highway though, the landscape was an amazing smoky blue black, highlighted in clouds of wispy white and transcendental silver. The misty breath of the mountains surrounded us in the rain.

I asked Debra, “What is it about mist that is so intrinsically appealing to us? “We like the mystery,” she replied. And she was right of course. Around us was evidence of the mystery. Rocks, trees and mountains had been transformed into soft shadows, blending and revealing, then hiding again. The mist was a soft swirl, a suggestion of reality, a blend of the abstract with a hint of the mystical. Very beautiful. Too soon though, we were out of the rain and on the long downhill run into Merritt, but it got me thinking about cool misty mornings back in Alberta.

We don’t usually get the heavy all-encompassing layers of cloud and fog like the wet coast, but we do get our own - delicate I would say - prairie pond mists. I’d had a taste of that kind of mist only days earlier at Elk Island National Park. Standing on the shore at Long Island Point, swirling brush strokes of mist, burned orange and yellow by the rising sun created, just for me, a new day. Awash in the color and light, I was there for the beginning of time in that moment. Such majesty, so close to home and all I had to do was be there. Coyotes on the far shore howled their approval of the new day as the sun silhouetted Mink Island in thoughtful reflection. 

Self-reflection was the order of different day at Wedge Pond. If you’ve traveled in Kananaskis Country, you know Wedge Pond. Everyone stops there because it’s just… so beautiful. It was a cool fall morning, and the scenery was laid out for me like an ‘en plein air’ canvas. An Alberta blue sky, the mountains, the colors of autumn and a soft and subtle mist were all reflected in the stillness of the pond. The mist, drifting on the lightest of breezes was elusive, mysterious and wonderful. Mystery, as Thoreau discovered at Walden Pond, creates wonder. Wedge Pond is like that, a wonderful place.

Another morning and another wonder was Vermillion Lakes near Banff. I’d left Edmonton very early, driving to Banff for the morning sunrise on Mount Rundle. My timing was off just a bit though. I’d arrived about 45 minutes too early. Parking the car by the shoreline, I closed my eyes for a few minutes, but it was only moments later that I awoke to a flurry of excitement. A Canada Goose was very upset with the proximity of my car to its nest and was waddling around the car, flapping its wings and squawking, trying to get the car and me to leave. And that’s when I noticed the mist on the lake. Really, more cloud than mist, but at water level, the cloud had opened up, creating a window to the trees on the far shore and their reflection in the lake. Tendrils of mist hung down from the cloud and floated across Vermillion Lakes through this ethereal portal. It was an entry point to a place where quiet beauty and solitude had touched the earth. And then the goose started ‘beaking off’, poking at my legs and the spell was broken. The window closed. I know it wasn’t a dream, because I have the photograph, but it was like a dream, soft, mystical and wonderful - except for the goose. Yin and Yang.

The building blocks for mist are a cool morning when the air is saturated with moisture. Add a touch of sun light and you have art. The mysteries of the mist though, are experienced in the breath of the mountains, the swirling colors of creation and in mystic portals that take us to new places of tranquility.
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