Creativity for the Rest of Us

The Mystery of Fog

The Northern California coast where I live is famous for its fog.  Mark Twain’s line about “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” is a popular quote used by locals.  When my Irish cousins come to visit, our first stop is often to buy a pair of long pants or a sweatshirt (for warmth not as souvenirs).

In my quest to stop whining about things I have no control over, I chose to adopt a different approach to fog.   Instead of waiting for the ideal sunny morning to go for a hike, I donned a layer of waterproofing and ventured out into the mist.

Fog is a mystery, not a problem to be solved.  Patrick O’Neill

Contrary to how it appears standing at the window looking out – dense, grey, and oppressive – fog is varied and mysterious.  It appears in some places as a thin gauze-like veil, pulling back to reveal a momentary glimpse of a small scene in sharp focus – a scene that you may not notice when everything around is clear.   In other places it is as thick as a heavy blanket and you can’t see beyond a few steps ahead.  Colors look different.  Sounds carry in a different way.  Smells are earthier.

What’s more, when I’m out in it the fog and the mist feel alive.  I can feel the presence of a mysterious companion – like I’m walking with a wise elder.  I have to say that I now enjoy walking in the fog.  I never know what I’ll find, what will be revealed, what surprises are in store for me.

In life, it can be unsettling to feel like we’re in a fog.  That feeling when things just aren’t quite right, when something is nagging at us that we can’t quite identify, when we don’t know which way to go next.

What’s useful when the fog comes in is to go deeper into it.  Instead of moping around waiting for clarity, explore the confusion, the limbo, the sluggishness we feel.  Look for the moments when the curtain pulls back and there is a momentary insight.  Collect them like pieces to a puzzle.  Lay them out in front of you and look for patterns and connections – what is the relationship in what you are seeing?

Pay particular attention to mysteries and surprises, things you hadn’t noticed before.  This is what creative people do; they notice things that other people don’t.



Cut a window in a small piece of cardboard – like a  picture frame – or cut the film out of an old slide.  Hold it up to any scene and notice what you see in the frame. Keep moving it around and look at the details, compositions, shapes that you wouldn’t normally notice when looking at the entire scene.  Then widen your gaze and see if the scene looks any different.

2 Responses to “The Mystery of Fog”

  1. Avril says:

    Great piece, as always, Mary! And hmmm, that practice sounds familiar! 🙂

  2. Thank you, Avril, for being the originator of the slide frame idea and your continued inspiration to me! It was so good I had to pass on. Enjoy all!

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