Fog ignites my claustrophobia. Driving in a comfortable car, knowing the road and the direction I’m headed, recognizing the anxiety and deep breathing to calm the jitters — none of these slow the panic. Trapped. Short of breath. I peer into its murk, anxiously anticipating yellow eyes and sharp talons emerging from the swirl. You’d think I live in the Amazon wilds and not the American Mid-west. I’ve seen one too many a horror movie, or read one too many of the Stephen King thrillers. Maybe I simply cannot tolerate closed in spaces, no matter how luxurious the car ride, but somehow, I think it’s more than this. Theoretically, or from a literary standpoint (think symbolic significance, setting enhancement, character development), fog is, well, fantastical. Mysterious. Alluring. It hints at the supernatural and cloaks the illicit. Fog hinders. It envelops. It chokes those who enter in. It makes us damp, for heaven’s sake. Frankly, it puts me (maybe all of us) on edge. Fog dims the lights, blurs the understanding, clouds the mind — we don’t call those who’ve lost their intellectual prowess ‘old fogies’ by accident, you know. “Walking around in a fog’ describes the ‘dumb blond,’ the clueless detective,’ the hapless clown.’ In spite of its metaphoric, scenic and sensory depth, I really rather hate it. It’s creepy. Other-worldly. There are things in the fog that can kill me. Call me irrational. I know it. I am undone by the fog.
Until Carl Sandburg.
His fog “comes on little cat feet.” No talons. No supernatural power. Just a soft padding about — with a bit of pounce perhaps, but without a trace of malice. His fog “looks over harbor and city.” It doesn’t lurk, or swirl — no bothering to envelop anyone in a damp embrace. His fog comes and goes — quietly. Sandburg’s fog observes the lights, the action, the bustle. Silent and friendly. Harmless on its “haunches.” Still mysterious perhaps, but without a threat. I love Carl Sandburg’s “Fog.” His version brings an extraordinary ‘ordinariness’ to the shrouded city lights. I can hear the cat purring from here. Fog de-mystified. The mystery of poetry does its office yet again. Words. I love them. Don’t you wish everybody did?