We’ve had a string of foggy days over here on the Eastern Shore. Sure, I could tell you that fog is simply an aerosol of small water droplets at or near ground level sufficiently dense enough to reduce horizontal visibility to less than one-thousand meters, or give you all the technical names for the various types of fog, but that would only reduce the phenomenon of fog to mere science. But I not going to do that because to me, fog is more art than science. Of all of Mother Nature’s wondrous weather wizardry, fog is a state of mind, a stupendous atmospheric work of art than has the power to transform the mundane into the marvelous. It’s a primed canvas worthy of a master, or in all fairness to Mother Nature, a mistress. It absorbs her brush strokes, removes all the extraneous material—even sound!—and leaves us spellbound by the simplicity of a black-and-white world.
If you had happened to be in Chestertown last weekend during our town’s annual celebration of all things Dickensian, you would have appreciated fog all the more. A boy riding one of those ridiculously tall Victorian bicycles suddenly appearing and then disappearing around a corner; the ghostly sound of a horse-drawn cart all but invisible as it goes clip-clopping down the street; the wail of bagpipes and the reverberations of big tenor and bass drums wafting through smoke-like wisps of fog; the aroma of seasoned logs blazing in fire pits, casting flickering shadows on passers-by, the women dressed in hoop skirts and bonnets, the men wearing top hats and morning coats; the tap of their walking sticks. Had there been no fog, it would have been transcendent enough, but with the fog, it is was…perfect! Whoever it was who imported and doled out all that pea-soup fog deserves a medal for dramatic effect!
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with a string of sunny, warm days, or rain when we need it, or a silent midnight snowfall. But to me, fog trumps them all. It’s an ethereal phenomenon that allows us to believe that we really do exist in a make-believe world, one in which only a thin veil of fog separates us from whatever it is that lies on the other side of this reality. It is what allows us to glimpse dimly in the mirror today, what we shall see in splendor someday.
Going over the fog-shrouded Bay Bridge yesterday—yes, I know; sad—I had the feeling I was suspended somewhere between heaven and earth. I could see neither the water below, nor the super-structure of the bridge above. Even the roadway was all but invisible. It was an eerie, spooky feeling, but not an unpleasant one, maybe because my fellow travelers were all going a notch slower than they usually do. Later in the day, back in the hurly-burly of the big city, we had reason to go through an old and once-familiar neighborhood now smothered in dense fog. Streetlights made little halos that illuminated small pockets of light in the inky, dripping darkness. Once I knew these streets, but last night, I was a bit disoriented; I couldn’t find my bearings. Again, I wasn’t so much threatened by what Carl Sandburg described as “the fog (that) comes on little cat’s feet,” as I was enthralled by the phenomenon. I took my time and arrived home safe and sound.
So please don’t worry; I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.