SOL March 15th Old Story, New Context

There’s a short story I read years ago in German. The partial title was “Nebelliebe” (Fog Love) and it was actually a story told within a story. A man wakes up to find his small town completely absorbed by a dense fog. He’s a single guy who hasn’t experienced much excitement in his life, so this remarkable fog raises his hopes for new adventures. And these quickly arrive in the form of short visits in the homes of “fog widows” who welcome this lost stranger into their midst for a time until they find a reason to change their minds. The fog lasts for quite some time. (The full title of the story is “Bei Gnacke und Nebelliebe” in Loewe in Aspik by Gerhard Mensching.)

What has stuck with me about this story is the idea of families adapting to the circumstances by simply exchanging members – accepting the temporary loss of a father or partner and compensating by taking in a different male stranger and making the most of the situation. The premise is absurd and silly, but told in a way that makes the situation oddly intriguing. My mental pictures of people creating webs of string to help them navigate their immediate surroundings, of the adults taking the children’s whistles to signal to each other through the fog – these images have never fully left me. That’s the mark of strong fiction.

I suppose I was reminded of this story because we’re facing restricted movement regulations in Austria beginning tomorrow. Our family will be required to stay at home most of every day unless we are shopping or going to work. We may go out for walks but only alone or with family members. We have no idea how long this will last. There’s no fog, but we will face different challenges of living separately in community. I wonder how we might get to know our neighbors differently under the circumstances. I wonder which habits we will cultivate as a family to fend off cabin fever. I hope to have a bit more time to read. Rediscovering old stories while creating new ones seems a real possibility.

10 thoughts on “SOL March 15th Old Story, New Context

  1. I’m not familiar with that tale, but you have given an endearing summary! Such a creative basis for a plot – fog. Yes, I see the similarities with our pandemic, the living differently that must necessarily ensue. This line: “I wonder how we might get to know our neighbors differently under the circumstances” – I hope you and all of us will work to write about this, how things change due to the surreal circumstances we find ourselves in. Thank you for this!

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  2. I enjoyed your retelling I’d the story of the fog and found myself making connections to what is currently going on.

    I wonder which habits we will cultivate as a family to fend off cabin fever.

    We’re just in day 4 and there are some real positives. I’m not sure how we will feel in day 14 or 24 or however many days there might be. But for today, I can find the good. I know you will too.

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  3. I wish the U.S. would adopt similar measures. By the time we get around to it, it’s going to be far too late. I am curious how the rhythms of our lives will change. We’ve been self-quarantining for about a few days now and no cabin fever yet, but I know it’s coming. Luckily we live in a beautiful area to go hiking. I’m hoping the snow will melt soon and we’ll be able to start getting out a few times a week into nature. That will really help.

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  4. It is funny how some images stick with us. Yours is a much more elevated image than the one I used yesterday…an image from the Flintstones. Still, there must be something about certain images that seem significant or emotional and therefor worth storing. I hope you find fruitful moments in your isolation.

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  5. The idea of the families taking in strangers to temporarily replace the members who are missing in the fog – that has deep resonance for me. Here in Ottawa, our movements aren’t quite as restricted (yet) as yours will be, but we are definitely pulling inwards. Still, a small group of us – just a few families whose children attend the same school and who are regularly together – have banded together to create our own small ecosystem wherein we can move more freely. Here’s hoping that this helps us through the fog of covid19.

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  6. I’m intrigued by the story, and I kept thinking about the ways places I visited only a few months ago are now so different: Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece, China—all in 2019. What a topsy-turvey world we live in. I heard David Brooks this morning suggest people use the NextDoor app to connect w/ people in their neighborhoods. We have a neighborhood FB page, but I also live in a community that self-isolated along religious lines, and I keto thinking about how that effects my experiences now. I texted a friend who moved a couple doors down last year to see how she is. Her son, a former student, is in Morocco and can’t leave. My friend and I promised to let the other know if we need anything.

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  7. Sounds like an interesting book! I am wondering too about how we as a family will fair through this isolation. We love each other, and we usually get better at spending time together the longer we do it. Right now we’re thinking about missing friends, but eventually we’ll settle into our home routine and probably won’t even notice the time is passing.

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