On Little Cat Feet in Seattle

Tacoma Ferry in Fog

Ferry in the Mist - ©ingridtaylar

Carl Sandburg’s metaphor of fog creeping in “on little cat feet” over the harbor and sky is 21 words of descriptive perfection. But, it wasn’t this gentle, pitter-patter idea of fog that formed me. It was a more treacherous fog, the fog of the mire, the one shrouding fantastical and coal-black specters:

The cloud was within fifty yards of where we lay, and we glared at it, all three, uncertain what horror was about to break from the heart of it. I was at Holmes’s elbow, and I glanced for an instant at his face. It was pale and exultant, his eyes shining brightly in the moonlight. But suddenly they started forward in a rigid, fixed stare, and his lips parted in amazement. At the same instant Lestrade gave a yell of terror and threw himself face downward upon the ground. I sprang to my feet, my inert hand grasping my pistol, my mind
paralyzed by the dreadful shape which had sprung out upon us from the shadows of the fog. A hound it was, an enormous coal-black
hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was my first Sherlock Holmes book. It lured me into the chill of the winter marsh but it didn’t frighten me with its blaze-eyed hounds. I empathized with animals a child, so I couldn’t embrace them as villains … even those with “smouldering glares” and fire bursting from their mouths. The world of Holmes coaxed me into the bogs and vapors, and bewitched me into loving the fog and the mysteries it conceals.

There are few phenomena as spectacular as watching advection fog sweep over the Golden Gate Bridge so quickly that you begin the one-mile passage under clear skies, and by Sausalito, the fog is tumbling over you from the west. Then, in California’s Central Valley, the tule fog, a type of radiation fog so dense you can see but a foot in front of you. It’s a white-knuckle, dripping sweat type of fog if you get caught late at night on that long leg between the Grapevine and San Francisco.

In Seattle, the fog does seems to travel in stealth on feline paws, but it carries across Puget Sound a savage and damp cold. My first winter here, I missed the clarity of crisp, California air and light reflected back at me in animal eyes. Now, I’ve learned to embrace these days of sopping low light so much that I wake up at dawn, anxious to see my world blanketed in brume, wondering how it will texturize my landscape or render perfect silhouettes of black birds … the ones I know are still looking into my eyes, even as my lens can’t find the catch light in theirs.

(To be continued ….)

Fog Over Seattle

Mist in Space - ©ingridtaylar

Mist Over Mt. Rainier

Misty Morning Mt. Rainier - ©ingridtaylar

Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Fog

Tacoma Narrows in Fog - ©ingridtaylar

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Comments

  1. says

    “Now, I’ve learned to embrace these days of sopping low light so much that I wake up at dawn, anxious to see my world blanketed in brume, wondering how it will texturize my landscape or render perfect silhouettes of black birds … the ones I know are still looking into my eyes, even as my lens can’t find the catch light in theirs.” Beautiful passage, my favourite one from the post.

      • says

        Ingrid:
        I also had this experience when I was 14 years old. My dad and my family were driving through this bridge to go to someone’s house in this thick fog. We also became part of a multi-car caravan. Maybe this was part our “humanoid”, “swarm” intelligence, trying to get hold of us??? Anyway, I had a such a good laugh just thinking of this..

        • says

          Maria, I love the anology of swarm intelligence! I had never considered it from that perspective but now I will *always* think of this when it comes to auto caravans or other forms of ‘survival’ behavior that could be viewed that way. Thank you for this great train of thought … it started an interesting discussion over the holiday.

          • says

            This may have been ludicrous on my part. “Swarm” intelligence has been attributed to the animal kingdom, which of course we’re part of, but is presently also applied to algorithms of predictable patterns of human behaviour. It’s manipulated by humans, rationale and science. I thought the analogy was funny, but what may have “kicked in” in my father’s head during the desperate multi-car caravan in the fog may have been more like the “kinesthetic” or “spatial” intelligence Howard Gardner wrote about in “Multiple Intelligences”. The fact that humans marvel at the “swarm” intelligence model in the animal kingdom just shows the insatiable thirst for problem solving we continue to have, whereas nature seems to have solved this dilemma long before Homo sapiens came into being. Great scientists know this, but we continue to hold the torch of knowledge that one day we will solve “the” mystery.

            • says

              So beautifully said. I love this: “shows the insatiable thirst for problem solving we continue to have, whereas nature seems to have solved this dilemma long before Homo sapiens came into being.” I know people sometimes apply a spiritual component to swarm intelligence, too, about the rhythms, pulses, and sounds of existence to which other animals are attuned. I need to read up on “Multiple Intelligences,” I’m not familiar with Gardner’s work. Thanks for the reference.

  2. Hugh says

    I recall my primal Tule Fog Encounter: Driving southbound on I-5 in the dead of night. I hit a whiteout . . . that lasted 200 miles en route to Los Angeles. I became part of a multi-car caravan — with an 18-wheeler in the lead — clipping along at 25-30 mph. Not that funny. ;-)

    • says

      Hugh, I’m not sure I would have made it with my sanity intact (well, whatever sanity remains). I’m so glad you did! The worst part is when there are no pace cars, or the only pace cars on the road are traveling at 70mph in thick fog. It’s a lot nicer to be sitting on a bluff with nowhere to go, watching the fog roll in.

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