You’ve had those days. You wake up, you stumble out of bed, you manage to formulate a simple plan: empty your bladder, start the coffee, crawl back into a warm bed and read until the coffee’s ready. Then you look out the window.
And there’s fog.
Immediate change of plans. You ignore the warm bed and you forget the coffee (though you surrender to the tyranny of the bladder), you dress hurriedly, grab your camera, and bang out the door. Because, you know…fog. And you start to walk.
That’s exactly what I did recently. I headed for the oldest part of a once-small town that over the last couple of decades has evolved into a suburb. It’s just a few square blocks where the railroad used to run, but there are the small town equivalent of alleys. I’m usually drawn to alleyways, and in the fog even the unpaved alleys of this small town seemed attractive and mysterious.
I followed one alley to some old sheds near the railroad tracks on the outskirts of the town. Some of the sheds were clearly meant to house large equipment; others looked like they might have been used to store the freight that used to be shipped in and out of the town. Some were brick, some were corrugated siding, none were well-tended. My first thought was that the sheds would make great studio space. Or, with the field out back, maybe a manufacturing space for making artisanal kites (Is anybody doing that? Have I found myself a new career niche?).
The alleyway soon morphed into a dirt lane that ran parallel to the railroad tracks. It would be more accurate to say the lane ran parallel to where the tracks used to be. I don’t know when the rails were torn up, but they were long gone. Even the railroad ties had been pulled out and placed in piles.
Every twenty yards or so there was another disorderly heap of old, decaying railroad ties. There was something oddly attractive about the continuity of the evenly-spaced piles, coupled with the casual jumble of the piles themselves. Order and disorder, all part of the same process. That pleases me.
I followed the dirt lane until it turned out toward the countryside, then walked along the path where the tracks used to be. The fog was slowly beginning to dissipate, but the world remained remarkably quiet and still. There was nothing to hear but some surly crows, a flock of Canada Geese flying somewhere in the mist, and the occasional barking dog.
Part of the beauty of fog is that it’s so wonderfully disorienting. As it fades and you get a better sense of where you are, so much of the mystery evaporates. You’re just chilly and wet and walking along railroad tracks that aren’t even there.
Eventually the bygone railroad tracks led to another suburban bike path, and I saw my first people of the day. A lone jogger running south, a bicyclist riding north. I said “g’morning” to both and got semi-social grunts in return. My guess is they were out there running and cycling despite the fog, not because of it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a waste of good fog.
Before long, the fog was just about burned off and I was left with nothing but a long chilly walk back to the house. When I got there, I renewed my earlier plan: start the coffee, back to bed, read until the coffee was ready or I fell back asleep — whichever came first.
It’s good to have a plan, if only because it’s so much fun to ignore it.