Thursday, January 27, 2011
Usually when the fog comes in, it is a timid guest. It burns off by midday, then pulls back to reveal the sun, a well-kept secret. But today was a tule day. Today, the air got progressively thicker, fuller, and wetter as the afternoon wore on. I stayed in my office later than normal, absorbed in an essay I am writing on Spain, and was completely unprepared when I emerged from Voorhies at 6 pm and wandered straight into the clouds. The air was mythic. Light from nearby lampposts cut through the fog in broad rays; inverse sunshine.
Within minutes, my coat and pants were streaked in dewdrops, little globules that glistened perversely in the evening light. It was difficult to see further than ten or twenty feet ahead; beyond that was gray emptiness. It made biking through Davis feel like jumping into a void, holding my breath as I trusted the path in front of me to stay a path. This is the kind of environment where stuff can happen. Mysterious stuff. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Surprising stuff. Stuff that can jump out at you.
As a child I associated tule fog with the endlessness of winter nights. It was inevitable; there would always be nights that felt too long or too strange or made it hard to see. I only recently learned that tule fog is particular to the Sacramento Valley, due to the fact that once the cold air enters the valley, it is shut inward by the Sierra Nevada mountains. It's turned in on itself, forced to confront itself in wet streaks from Sacramento clear to Redding, even as far as Bakersfield. Often the air above the low-lying fog is warmer and clearer. The sky cheats, I think. Maybe it does this to remind all of us how blind we actually are. To make us turn inwards as well.