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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sea smoke I

On these very cold days, the ocean wears wisps of sea smoke all day. In the morning it covers pretty much all of the Bay, this western side anyway (for I can't see past Vinalhaven), even appearing quite close to shore where the water is shallowest and presumably therefore coldest (a high difference between air and water temperatures produces the thickest fog). Not that you can call this scantiest of clouds at all thick; sea smoke is a matter of tatters and  rags, wisps and tissues, blown by the wind like wavelets, disappearing just a foot or two above the water. Out in the middle of the bay, sea smokes persists into the afternoon. The greater depth out there means warmer water, and since the thermometer hasn't risen past #$%& 5 degrees today....

What a pale and beautiful cousin of summer fog it is! Much as we romanticize fog, its mystery, the way it blocks out the world (like cars and planes especially), stretches of several days of its hanging around, for which this peninsula is well-known, can be quite depressing. Sea smoke is the definition of ephemeral. You can hardly see enough of it to catch it; you can't get lost in it except metaphorically, it represents such a fleeting connection between water and air, especially in the milder (hah!) afternoon, that you'd miss it if you weren't looking for it.

I like things that exist between. The shore itself is a perfect example, as are birds (like the loon this morning apparently unconcerned about temperatures just at zero, and the crows still ruling space and spruce this afternoon), and book authors, and sunrise and sunset on the ocean. All of us, and all things, live between worlds in one way or another, between life and death at the very least; it's just that some live more spectacularly than others. And sea smoke is a spectacle well worth catching if you can.

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