The strangest creature that I have met in Northern California is the fog. For every soul here who relishes standing outside any kept narrative – any tended garden (quick now! here now! always!) – there is yet the fog. The fog resounding most with that quiet cry against the understood. It rolls in from the wide ocean and covers San Francisco entirely, along with Oakland and Berkeley. Everything west of the hills is its possession. Temperatures dip low, and a haze settles over the landscape.
It is possible to see it crawling in like a white-gray wall. A supplanting horizon. Look west, and there it creeps over us with settled determination. And in the morning, just as blanked and resolute, it fades backward. The sun shines fierce. As if the hills had never known a cold, obscure evening.
I wonder often at the fog. That strange, masking calm and cool. I feel as if the fog has become my first friend here. It is dependable if odd; informative if silent. It embodies everything about what it means to move: every former comfort is covered now by a gauze of newness and unfamiliarity. Everything is difficult to interpret, resting as it does beneath the hazed glass of a different context. Everything cries against the understood.
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers
– T.S. Eliot, “Dry Salvages,” Four Quartets
Time stretches in strange ways, embraced and encumbered by the fog. I am at once too busy and not enough, struggling to comprehend each passing moment. Comprehension requires a moment. It requires context. Both time and place. These are torn apart and wrapped up in the fog. Rolling in and rolling out, perceived but ill understood.
Time presses onward and these faces I do not know pass by, equally as set and opaque as the fog. Who are they, and where do they go? What do they think, and do they glance once at my face? There is no time to know. No time to pause. And too many lonely hours. The faces pass by; time presses them onward over the landscape.
Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.