Fog on the Downs

October 27, 2009

wisconsin river

I drove back from Madison to La Crosse this morning, early.  Some weekends I stay over an extra night at home and get up and out by 6:30 in order to be at the office by 9:00 as usual.  Its a bit brutal to drive all that way and then sit in a desk chair all day but it gives a little extra family time.  And its nicer to make the drive in daylight rather than with headlights glaring all along the route.  Its beautiful country between here and there.  Rolling hillsides with pastoral land by the road and tree lined slopes framing them.  And often its mysteriously misty.  The Wisconsin River, which I cross at Spring Green and then follow for a number of miles seems to escape its banks some mornings – covering the low country in fogs and low lying clouds all the way from Madison to the first big hill after Richland Center.  It reminded me today of the River Withywindle, reaching out and influencing the land around it.  As Tolkien describes it, the mist pervades the Old Forest on the edge of the Shire:

“…here and there it lay in the hollows of the wood, and to the south of them, out of a deep fold cutting right across the Forest, the fog still rose like steam or wisps of white smoke.

“‘That,’ said Merry, pointing wit his hand, ‘that is the line of the Withywindle.  It comes out of the Downs and flows south-west through the midst of the Forest to join the Brandywine below Haysend.  We don’t want to go that way!  The Withywindle valley is said to be the queerest part of the whole wood – the centre from which all the queerness comes, as it were.'”

Not that I think the Wisconsin River is queer, or in any way ominous.  But it does seem to exert its influence over the surrounding lands.  And I feel it very strongly when I drive forward into ever thickening mists which concentrate as I pass over the new bridge.  When I pull up the first big hill, angling skyward and see blue in front of me and sunlight following after, I can feel the change in influence.  I love that sense of connection to the landscape.


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