As I reflect on the quality of fog and wonder what to say, literary ideas arise. The opening of the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House, where he introduces fog as a narrative theme:

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river….fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights….fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships…Chance people….fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds

A second reference to TS Eliot and his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep

The poem begins with the wonderful lines Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky In addition to evoking the word sigh thus conveying mood, this overlays narrative effect onto the environment. Annie Proulx explores fog in her novel The Shipping News: Fog against the window like milk….The sullen bay rubbed with thumbs of fog….green of grass stain, tilted in fog.

I lived in Brighton some years ago and remember an occasion when sea fog drowned the beach and some way inland. In the hills we call that a white out. The loss of orientation was the same. Let us go, you and I, into fog.

Proulx connects thinking with fog and the sea: His thoughts churned like the amorphous thing that ancient sailors, drifting into arctic half-light, called the Sea Lung; a heaving sludge of ice under fog where air blurred into water, where liquid was solid, where solids dissolved, where the sky froze and light and dark muddled.

With the hill walking white out, your senses strain for a holding but there is none. You walk through it, where out the other side means to path, navigable tarn, or tent. In the Pyrenees a few years ago I left a dry and relatively warm refuge to find my pitch. A few hundred yards away, a five minute walk, and I was completely lost. I had to return to the faint light of the hut and ask for help. I could do that, I couldn’t describe exactly where my tent was in French, but fortunately she spoke English. Along the top, where it dips a little, down a little flat area. The fog was cold, wet, and worrying.

I got lost too at another refuge, hunting my tent for thirty minutes, and decided I should return to the light of the hut for a dismal but safe sleep. If the hut light went out I would be sucked into blackness, sleeping half under a rock on hard stony ground cold, wet, exposed to a threatening flashing storm. Everyone was in bed. I found blankets in a dormitory and what I thought would be a quiet corner. The toilets beside me were industrially noisy and used many times throughout the terrible night.

The next morning the fog had gone. My tent was easily visible. I had coffee, spoke with a few people about my ordeal; a woman had seen me on the floor. I then returned to my tent for peppermint tea and baguette breakfast, relieved that winds hadn’t ripped it open and rain ruined everything. The tent protects you, I reflected, but you must also protect your tent.

Surprisingly, as I set off walking, I didn’t feel too bad. Lack of sleep usually makes me ill.


Chorlton Meadows Poplars November Fog

Sunday January 1, 2017