Fog Effects by Ann Beman


As I paddle, our canoe glides through the water. I feel rather than see this motion, because a thick morning fog envelops us, playing tricks with the horizon. Instead of looking at wide-view panorama, we see a cloud-walled corridor that narrows to a point, as if we’re facing the wrong way in a movie theater, toward the projector instead of the screen. It gives the illusion that we’re paddling uphill.

It’s marvelous and impossible. Lakes don’t have slopes. Water follows rules. Doesn’t it?

When I look over my shoulder, I smile at my husband Marc in the stern. “Whoa,” I say, watching wisps of mist trail our canoe, erasing our wake. Marc and I paddle in tandem, utterly shrouded by ghostly vapor across Lake Bowron. It feels like we should whisper.

I continue to paddle, but I close my eyes and breathe in the fragrance of spruce and fir forest, the tannic smell of lake weed beneath us — scents of fairy tales and holidays, possibility and imagination. It’s as if the water before us were a stage and the fog were its curtain. Anything could happen. Anything could approach us from the mist. Anyone. Even my mom, gone 14 years by now.

I’ve never told Marc that I sense my dead mother with us on canoe trips. Then why should I? Nothing about canoeing the Bowron Lakes Circuit in Northern British Columbia actually reminds me of my mother. Not the epic, boot-sucking mud of the portage trails. Not the steam escaping from my rain-soaked clothing while leaning toward the tarp-sheltered campfire. Certainly not the electric-green rubber boots I wear all day, every day, until time to dive beneath our tent vestibule at night.

Mom sat on Southern California beaches. She wore tennis dresses. Weeklong canoe expeditions in remote Canadian provincial wildernesses were not in her wheelhouse. She always marveled at how far from her wheelhouse I floated. Yet, she still wanted to know how I filled my days, to wonder at them, to be with me in spirit.

It occurs to me on this canoe trip that I am the same age as my mother when she was pregnant with me. Nine days after she gave birth to me, she turned 50. In 1967, few women had babies as late as 40, let alone 50. I’ll blame the extra generation between us for not allowing us to be the best friends that a lot of my girlfriends were with their mothers.

But I didn’t need another best friend. When I was a child, Mom would pad into my room when she thought I was still asleep. She would whisper to herself and arrange things on my dresser and in its drawers. When she wasn’t in my room, I often sensed her: muffled footfalls in the rooms above mine, the creak of a desk chair, the faint click of a shoe on the bathroom floor, the soft groan of a stair descended. I didn’t have to see her to know she was there. And now, out here on this lake, she’s the breeze tickling my skin, fussing with the hair around my face.

With the clearing fog, I hear only the faint notes of paddle blades in and out of water, ploop, dip, ploop, dip, ploop. As the curtains of mist lift and dissolve, the scene changes. And our vision is drawn to the far shore.


Meet the Contributor

Ann.Beman Ann Beman is a co-publisher and nonfiction editor of Tahoma Literary Review and also serves as prose reviews editor for the Museum of Americana online journal. She’s been writing a book about thumbs forever. Or at least since she earned her MFA from the dear, departed Whidbey Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Bombay Gin, Mojave River Review, and Canoe Journal, among others. She lives in California’s Sierra Nevada with two whatchamaterriers, a chihuahua, and her husband in Kernville, on the Kern River, in Kern County. Cue the banjos.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Dru!

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