Monday, April 30, 2012

Frustrated by Fog

On my daily commute into work, there is one point, early on in the drive, when I crest a large hill to a panoramic view of a large valley.  It's a perfect bowl, dotted with farm houses, a small community and many trees.  The trees are a sprightly new green in the spring, a luscious emerald in the summer, a picture-perfect autumn palette in the fall and a starkly beautiful combination of silhouettes and evergreens in the winter.  It's truly gorgeous.    But as a writer, it's driving me crazy.

In the late Autumn and early Spring, when the temperatures fluctuate, mornings here are often foggy, and no more so than in this valley.   The technical name for this particular fog is radiation fog.  I'm going to let the National Weather service explain that to you:

"...infrared cooling of a cloud-free, humid air mass at night can lead to fog formation - this is called "radiation fog". Radiation fog is most common in the fall, when nights get longer, and land and water surfaces that have warmed up during the summer are still evaporating alot of water into the atmosphere."

I suppose that's as good a description of the fog as any and I hope it will do for you, because I cannot describe the fog.

The fog both enchants and eludes me.  It's different each day.  Some mornings it lays over both the valley and the surrounding foothills like the stereotypical blanket.  It's practically solid in its mass.  I feel as though I might run up against it and I'm almost shocked when my car travels through with no resistance.  It coats my car with drops of water that I push out of the way with my windshield wipers.  I watch closely for taillights and strain to see the painted road markings so that I stay on track.

Other mornings, the fog is gauze-like.  It picks and chooses what it wants to embellish, draping like doilies over the the treetops, a decorative crochet rather than a solid weave.  One spot might be covered in a spidery lace while right by it the yellow, orange and red leaves sit unadorned, perhaps too lovely in their own right to need the fog's help.  This fog deceives the eyes, so that it appears as a sheer, floating curtain, but then dissipates into nothing as you drive through it.

Then there are mornings where the fog falls into pockets.  On those days, I drive to work in bright fall sunlight, under a morning sky tinged with  tangerines, reds and roses that are  the precursor to the deep blue of an autumn sky.  The fog snuggles down deep in the valley, unwilling to leave it's cozy bowl.  It brims right up to the rim of the surrounding hills, like a tureen of wool waiting for a giant ladle to scoop it out.

I've just spent three-plus paragraphs trying to describe the fog to you.  I've pulled out all the stops - adjectives, adverbs, simile and metaphor.  And I still feel as though I'm no where near to a remotely adequate description of what that fogs is like on these Fall mornings.   Every time I glimpse it, I skim through lists of words that I might use, so that you, dear reader, might see the fog as I do.  And each time I come up short.  It seems to me that there are some things in nature that are too much for our feeble little language.

I love that fog.  It takes my breath away each time it makes an appearance.  On an otherwise wearisome commute, the fog is just one of nature's gifts that make the drive bearable.  Its lifespan is short, both by day and by season.  After a few weeks, the fog mostly disappears, as the temperatures either cool or warm enough.  Then I'll be stuck trying to describe the heavy frost that encrusts the tan and yellow fields in diamonds when the morning sun breaks through, and how I love a particular wetland I drive by where it glazes the bright red nanny berries, turning them into sugar-coated rubies.  Next comes the clean white coating of the first snowfalls that freshen up the landscape to put us in a Holiday mood, one last delight before the long dark months set in.  After that it's just a tense slog through winter, and I'm too caught up in the fear of black ice or heavy snows to indulge in wistful meditations on the world beyond the road, forgetting about the  fog until spring comes.

I hope there's fog where you live.  It's the only chance I have that you might know what it is that these lines and curves that we call letters are ultimately too weak and limited to convey.  Or maybe it's just me who is too weak and limited.  If so, please take pity on me and describe the fog.

(C) 2010