Driving through rural California yesterday, I rounded a snowy slope and came upon a cauldron of fog stretching below for thirty miles or more, bounded near and far by sharp mountains in white sun and blue-white shade. The fog was the color of snow but had a softer texture, like clouds seen from an airplane. I descended the slope and the sky whitened and dimmed. I turned on my headlights. The radius of the universe shrank to twenty feet: snow and road slipped past like motorized sidewalks under a low gray dome. Points of light appeared, oncoming cars, the passing dark bulk of a pickup or SUV. I was far from the city. The radio carried nothing but Bible readings and heavily produced anthems of rural pride:
You get the line, I’ll get the pole
We’ll go fishing in the crawfish hole
Five-card poker on Saturday night
Church on Sunday morning
At the Highway 167 junction I changed plans and turned left onto a slow upward grade leading out of the cauldron and back toward Nevada. I passed a sign for a ghost town. The universe enlarged; the fog now appeared to wave like white breath or hair a hundred feet ahead. Shadow birds, hawks or ravens, slid past. A mile before the state line the sky cleared and the mountains, which are guardian mountains, resumed their folded forms. They had always been there. I braked for motion in the road, eight mule deer who stood on the asphalt and watched my approach, turned and sprang into the sage, bounding from their hind legs like rabbits but more slowly, since gravity is proportionally slower on their larger bodies, slow-motion rabbits leaping through glutinous air.
Late that night I heard a preacher on the radio compare homosexuality and abortion to slavery and the Holocaust. In the course of this extended analogy he reminded the congregation that Hitler killed six million Jews, not to mention Gypsies, Poles, homosexualshere he stumbled for a moment, apparently unsure of this facet of the argument, then regained his confidence and carried through. No major church denomination protested slavery before the Civil War. The German churches kept silent during the Third Reich. The humanists say that we can believe whatever we like in private, but we Christians cannot withdraw from politics as we have in the past; withdrawal from public life leaves the field to Satan; Samuel Adams said that we must earn our liberty through virtue; we the people, in Christ
Right now I am on the fourth floor of a bank building. There are strong winds outside.