Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: the fog of Owls Head

To my mind fog is as great an inspiration as a storm. Owls Head is a peninsula sticking into the southern part of Penobscot Bay, and warm currents coming up from the south mix particularly well with cool currents from the north, especially in early July. Some summers we’ve been locked in for nearly a week. The days have a rhythm to them like the ocean’s tides: the fog hugs the shore and makes the firs down by the water barely visible, soupy, spiritual, happy; then it pulls back a little, teasing; then it comes in fast to smother the house; and when it does, we gladly leave our duties as watchmen of the bay and go inside to read our novels and purge ourselves of the city.
In the hot summer of 2010 our usual days of gray started to lift on the Sunday afternoon of the World Cup final. Up till then, it had been four solid days of insularity - no, not quite: for an hour on Friday the fog moved enough to reveal Sheep Island two miles away, including a thin blue line in the water between the island and the mainland, as if a hole in the clouds were illuminating the "gut," the channel that boats take between Rockland and points south; and for a similar hour on Saturday, it retreated from our shore to hang around the edges of the islands and the points, and the tops of the island firs poked out of the fog as if they were reeds in a lake, and the first floor of the house on Ginn Point was blanketed and invisible, but not the second. For the vast majority of 96 hours, we were bound to short views - a hundred yards at best - and the cool, moist air. On Monday we awoke to blue skies and hot air, although fog still sat in the gut for a few hours more, reminding us of its caprice.

And reminding us that fog is a most useful thing. It means the city is hot, and we're not. It lovingly disrupts noisy traffic from the airport. It prevents chores like mowing and weeding. It clarifies the mind, especially when one has an essay or a story going strong. Of course we want it eventually to end in a sunny day. The phrase "in a fog" is quite descriptive of the dangers of piloting boats or negotiating hangovers, of the boredom of watching TV, of obstruction in the pursuit of fun. But walking in fog is other-worldly, and staring into it takes us out of ourselves, and we'll desperately miss it when we have to go back to the city and clearly see again all the distractions in our way.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer

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