A Second Pass at Overpass Into Fog
May 19, 2014 § 1 Comment
Steven Church discusses the whys and wherefores of his brilliant essay “Overpass into Fog,” found in the most recent issue of Brevity:
When I wrote “Overpass Into Fog” most of it came out in one mad rush. I was trying to warp and stretch time on the page perhaps because I was interested in how a moment can seem to expand and swell until it is distended with meaning. I don’t mean some kind of epiphany where the movement is linear, from darkness to light. It’s not that easy. Instead I’m thinking about those moments where the laws of physics seem to bend to the meaning-making part of your brain and time actually slows down or speeds up, or leaps forward and backward, where the movement is wild, circular, digressive, and recursive, but still pinned to a specific time and space, and to a unique consciousness. I’m thinking about those moments where a second takes a minute to complete its spin around the clock, and a minute can stretch on for hours, where time stops or slows and bends; those moments where colors seem to make noise and everything shimmers and quakes with resonance. It’s a kind of suspended animation, where movement is arrested, paused, stretched and manipulated. That moment on the 1-80 overpass, lost in the fog, felt that way; and I like to believe I’m not the only one who experiences such ecstatic fugue states of thought and emotion.
We talk about how “time flies” when we’re absorbed in a great book, even if what we experience is really more of a timelessness, a suspension of our awareness of clock-time. We feel lost in another world, “transported” to other realities, even if we are seated in a chair. It’s a kind of out-of-body experience created by words on the page, a seductive mix of emotion and intellect; and I guess I wanted to create a similar kind of time-travel in an essay, but in a smaller space, in just seven hundred and fifty words. My daughter, who is still learning how to read time on a clock, tells time by how it feels and, for her, a thirty-minute wait for ice cream feels like it lasts a day. Because it feels that way it is that way, and there is a truth beyond physics to this emotional understanding of time. The moment in my car on the 1-80 overpass felt like it lasted forever. And it did. It’s still happening.
The essay was also probably in many ways inspired by the craft of writers like Ben Miller, who creates impossibly long and ornate scenes that unfold from a single moment like those intricate pop-up books where an entire world blooms from the page; and Rebecca Solnit who crafts sentences that begin often in an image or idea and then expand exponentially, seemingly chaotically, like fractal patterns before collapsing back down in a satisfying exhale of breath and symmetry. It was probably also inspired by the exquisitely detailed meditations of Lia Purpura on a pin, a color, a word, or a walk. I suppose I was also trying to do what so many essays in Brevity are able to do — go big places in small spaces. And finally, the essay was inspired by love, or at least by the possibility of love in the wake of loss.