Fog up the river, fog down the river


4248111-fog   I don’t know what the weather will be like when you read this, but as I’m writing it is a gray, dreary business outside.  And there is an abundance of thick fog.

My neighborhood as I walked through it this early morning was dismal indeed, with skeletal trees coming up at me out of all that murkiness like specters with decidedly evil intentions. An agitated dog howled nonstop from somewhere.

Oddly enough, other than when driving in the stuff I’m on the other side of the fence regarding fog (and the other side of the fence would literally be a good place to be in regards to that dog, whose caterwauling was a little unnerving).

There’s not much more beautiful, in my opinion, than a stand of winter trees or maybe an old barn in dense fog.  When details are fuzzy and muted in the mist, as if they’d been lightly sketched with a soft pencil on rice paper.

When I used to be the sponsor of student tours to Europe I always hoped that we’d find London in a real pea-souper. Which we usually did, since it is foggy there much of the time. It’s really something to see, when the River Thames lumbers along under an undulating blanket of vapor, and the Tower of London peeks over the top of the dingy ground-hugging cloud.

That’s the kind of fog that I imagine Mr. Sherlock Holmes hurrying through, the kind that I can envision the London-to-Dover coach rattling into in Charles Dickens’  A Tale of Two Cities.

In fact, Mr. Dickens began another of his novels, “Bleak House”, with this fine description:

“Fog everywhere.  Fog up the river, where it flows among meadows … fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping … fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights …” It goes on and on;  Dickens wasn’t opposed to rambling when he got his steam up, maybe owing to the fact that magazines paid him by the word for serializations of his novels.

People who write novels and screenplays have always seen fog as a handy way to convey setting and mood.  Heathcliff and Catherine wandered through a good bit of it out on the lonely moors in Wuthering Heights.  And, you might recall, it wasn’t a sunny afternoon that Humphrey Bogart strolled off into at the end of Casablanca.

Fog has been described and celebrated by creative writers throughout all of literary history.  Edgar Allan Poe worked it in pretty regularly in his macabre tales, and poets, in particular, have made great use of it.  T. S. Eliot compared it to a cat rubbing its back upon a window pane, and Carl Sandburg said it comes on little cat’s feet.

The cat, it seems, tends to be the creature we most often equate with fog.  I guess that’s why our two can sit contentedly and watch it through the window.  (Of course, they will sit contentedly and watch anything at all though the window, since they never get to go outside).

Felines, you see, are stealthy and agile like fog, and can slink into rooms and out again without being noticed.  They can, like fog, wedge themselves into tiny corners and cubbyholes.  Which puts them at the opposite end of the sneaky and graceful spectrum from dogs. Dogs knock things over constantly, pant and drool to excess, and go clomping through rooms, very un-fog-like.

Maybe the reason that I’m so inclined toward cats is that I’m so fond of fog.

Now don’t get me wrong; dogs are fine by me, and so are bright, sunny days.  I’m in complete agreement that “on a clear day you can see forever.”

But here’s the thing: some days I don’t want to see forever.  Some days I want to settle into a comfortable chair with a good book with the fog pushing against my windows, like a blanket between me and the world.  Some days I want to venture forth out into the haze (except in a car, remember) and be content with seeing no further than a few feet in front of me, while at the same time being hidden away from the rest of the universe.

It’s almost like being invisible when I’m in a thick fog.  And who – in this fast-paced, frantic life – doesn’t want to be invisible on occasion?

So I’m in favor of fog.  At least every now and then.

As to what that dog on my early morning walk had to fuss about, I haven’t the foggiest notion.



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