Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fog is the absence of clarity. Or is it?

In fog, what you think you see, may not be real. What you imagine can appear more real, more terrorizing, than it really is. Boundaries can either disappear, or seem artificially close. Limitations, most surely, seem to multiply, grow and surround us.

I've been in the fog for weeks. Today, on this last day of winter, I admit it.

Fog isn't the absence of light. You can have foggy darkness and pea-soup light. No, fog, in all its connotations, is the absence of clarity. My life is in flux right now and the fog that has descended is a fitting metaphor for the cross-roads of choices, complications and competing priorities that confront me right now. Perhaps it is, for you as well.

Reality shifts in the fog. There's a reason that horror movies make liberal use of it. Where would the Hound of the Baskervilles have been without the creepiness of the misty Scottish moors? And what self-respecting vampire movie doesn't have at least one scene with the damsel in distress, high on the foggy castle ramparts fleeing from the clutches of the undead Dracula?

Interestingly enough, the recent weeks I've spent considering fog match, almost exactly, the longest stretch I spent in in the Rheinstrasse of Germany living through a murky, sunless winter. Six weeks without the sun is like death to a sun-loving American! Combine that with the fact that my German wasn't much beyond toddler talk and you have the setting for a down and depressed ex-patriot!

For most, fog represents the unknown, the mist of things unseen and unrealized. Most often it is used to represent fear, uncertainty and confusion. But in the fog, other things can become more apparent. Until spending a summer week in San Franciso a few years ago, I hadn't thought much about those weeks when I could not see the house across the narrow German village street. Flying in, we descended from brilliant sunshine into the bay fog and didn't see the sun for days.

I was reminded that, when you can't see clearly, your other senses are strengthened. In that cold San Francisco summer shroud, the fog horns on the bay howled mournfully. The clang-clang of the street cars could be heard long before the clackety vehicle appeared out of the drifting air. The smell of roasting nuts in the street vendors carts was intensified and if the fish down on the wharf hadn't been right off the boats, I'm sure the odor would have been different!

The fog I've been in lately is personal and no reflection on the gorgeous, sunny days we perpetuate here in Colorado. I haven't been able to see my way clearly. But fog intensifies other senses I need to deal with it.

Step outside on a foggy day. Stand alone and very still, where the fog seems most dense. Hear things to which you would not normally pay attention. Feel the air against your skin. Sense the acrid smell of smoke. Cringe at the noxious odor of gasoline. Shuffle your feet through last fall's rotting leaves. Touch your fingers to the freshness of just-cut wood. Smell the dampness. Especially in this season, pick up the scent of earth and of growing things beginning to stir. Sense your mind shift speeds.

Fog, you see, is not such a bad thing. In an odd way, that which conceals, reveals. What physical fog can do for the body, so emotional fog can do for our minds; allowing our other four senses to take over where our visual culture has dominated. It makes this little space for the things to come forward that we don't normally allow into our neat and structured schedules. It allows for possibility and purpose to sort themselves out. Things that lie hidden in the glare of bright light, fog reveals to you. Clarity from a little mind fog -- the perfect prelude to the coming days of brilliant sunshine.

No comments: