There is a fog spread across the entire Midwest this morning. It is nothing more than a cloud come to earth. But it has the smell of fog. That wet, specific smell of fog that goes everywhere with you.
I love running in the fog, but not cycling. Runners can step off the road while running against traffic. Not so on a road bike. Even with bright lights on the back of the bike, a really thick fog can put riders in great danger. We won’t do it. No bike riding in a deep fog.
It is the isolation of running in fog that I like so much. Navigating a woodsy trail in a fog in the woods, even better. The world is reduced to what you can see a few feet ahead. It simplifies things. Takes away the open dread of daily life. Back to the womb, as it were, of existence.
We’ve been to triathlons where a fog hung over the lake and had the swim canceled for safety reasons. It’s hard enough to keep track of hundreds of swimmers in the water without having them disappear into a fog or mist. It’s all about specific gravity, if I have the science correct:
Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance; equivalently, it is the ratio of the mass of a substance to the mass of a reference substance for the same given volume. Apparent specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a volume of the substance to the weight of an equal volume of the reference substance.
Water and fog are thus the same thing. One is simply denser than the other. We even emit a brand of fog from a shallower density as we run. So whether we admit it or not, we live our lives in a fog. If it isn’t present otherwise, we create our own.
This brings up another kind of fog, the metonymic* kind, with which we sometimes deal in life. This is how the phrase “mind in a fog” is described:
Clouding of consciousness, also known as brain fog or mental fog, is a term used in medicine denoting an abnormality in the regulation of the overall level of consciousness that is mild and less severe than a delirium. The sufferer experiences a subjective sensation of mental clouding described as feeling “foggy”.
We all wake to fogginess some days. Fatigue can bring that on. Intense training requires so much of our mental energy the mind retreats into a fog. It is a strange thing to go out for another ten-mile run or fifty-mile bike ride when your brain is still in a fog from the day, the week, the month before. The body goes through the motions and the brain, well, it tries to navigate through the fog.
But sooner or later the fog always lifts. It does not remain. The sun burns off a morning fog. Sometimes it goes away all at once. Or, it can shred and shift and rise in long columns, like memories to which we can no longer cling.
That’s why some people seem to associate fog with evil. What good can come out of seemingly unnatural phenomena? In the age olde town of London, fogs are known to reach epic scale. That’s when slashers and killers and werewolves supposedly move about. From fog comes horror, and from horror, death.
I have never embraced such fears. Fog is a friend to me, a welcome dampening of the hard edges of the world. Even the birds lay low when fog reigns. No morning songs. No fast flight. I move through fog with eyes focused only on the nearest section of road or trail ahead. That is enough for me, an act of trust that the next step is the right one. It is all you need to know, for the moment, and that can be heavenly.
*Metonymy: Metonymy is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept.