If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would come to love fog, to find solace in its soft and moist embrace, I would have dismissed the prediction. As a young adult, for 10 years I lived in Milan, which is located in the Po River Valley, land of impenetrable fog. During the winter, for days the view outside the window would be a gray wall of nothing. Having grown up in Perugia, an airy city on top of a hill, I experienced fog as oppressive. It impeded visibility and was dangerous for pedestrians and drivers of all vehicles. Definitely not fun.
When I moved to Northern California, I met the local fog, which feels and behaves differently. For a while I had difficulty calling it fog, as it often looked like soft clouds that were not harbingers of rain but would dissipate around midday and retake the sky at sunset.
I now love fog, and not just because I know it is good for our North Coast environment and beloved redwood forests, but because it is a cozy place where silence reigns. Maybe it is just me, but I am suffering from screaming fatigue. Life has been hard enough for all of us since early March 2020: why so many raised voices?
There are two places where I particularly like to go out into the fog. First, Big Lagoon on my standup paddleboard. There is an ideal balance of fog height and density that makes an outing perfect: I like not being able to see all the way around, yet far enough so I don't feel closed in, but rather moving in a kind of cool, giant bubble — dressed in bright yellow or orange to be quite visible.
I paddle along the spit, so I can keep an eye on land for safety, and see the sand slowly slide on one side, the dead tree that's been reaching out with its bleached branches for a long time, birds flying in and out of the bubble space: when they land on the water, their soft splash the only other sound added to that of my paddle dipped rhythmically into the water. I see no trees, though I know they cover the eastern shore, hear no cars, though I know they travel on the highway skirting the lagoon.
The quiet fog-padded cocoon is a special spa treatment for my often-anxious mind, a luxury in which I indulge with deep gratitude. On the way back, as I approach the south end of the lagoon, trees slowly materialize to my left, first as shadows, then as dark shapes, finally as Sitka spruce, under which people camp, their tents and other gear splashes of color in an otherwise subdued palette. I gently push my paddleboard alongside the concrete ramp, step on land and feel ready to face the world again.
Clam Beach and Little River Beach at low tide have recently become another favorite fog spot for a walk or a run, offering an expanse of combed sand in ever-shifting shapes modeled by the tides. The vastness of the space can be disorienting and being in a fog bubble is comforting. Every now and then a person with their dog or a group of people emerge from the fog, a sudden materialization of humanity that is both startling and reassuring. They soon move outside the bubble space and disappear, their shapes never fully sharp, as the fog softens contours.
Approaching Moonstone Beach, familiar rock shapes first darken then dominate the view ahead. There are usually people there and sometimes surfers in the water, but Little River separates the two beaches and crossing the water never appeals to me, so this is the turn-around spot. Southward, fog takes over again, though if the sun is making inroads into fog's dominance, I can see a slight lightening of the grass on the dunes: nothing beyond that.
The ocean makes its presence felt, but it is tamed, as I can see only a short distance from shore, so the vast body of water is reduced to a few yards of silver ripples that slide on the dark sand dotted with sand dollars and fragments of shells. The fog tones down colors, sounds, sharp angles. As I look for the trail back to the parking lot, and ahead at the rest of the day in front of my computer, I know the fog will stay with me: I will carry its softness like a lantern to illuminate my path and my encounters with others along the way.
Simona Carini (she/her) shares photographs of her outdoor explorations (and of food) on Instagram www.instagram.com/simonacarini