Most people call it Winter. Here in Walla Walla, we call it The Fog. We live in a topographic bowl, huddled against the Blue Mountains to the east, the Horse Heaven Hills to the south, and the Palouse to the north. As with most things that are over-protected, this works to our disadvantage. Cold air sinks. It ponds in Walla Walla, where there is really no exit from the basin. Meteorologists speak of The Inversion. We have other names.
This morning was the first time this fall that I’ve found The Fog lurking outside my bedroom window. Our fog comes not on little cat feet, but more like a cat burglar, testing its entry points silently at night, checking to see if there are any valuables in sight, and robbing you of your morning sun. The Fog does provide some advantages. You focus on things that are close. You see details because you really can’t see much else. You hear sounds because they offer the best access to the world beyond about 100 feet. It is an entirely different sort of existence, and one that is valid and valuable in its own right.
Ultimately, today, it will clear. Already the sun has won the battle. If I look straight up, there is blue sky. To the east, a welcome golden glow warms the sky. These are visions I’ll have to remember as the fog thickens in the coming months. Today, it’s like a Fog Drill. Remember to look up. Remember the sun is there. Remember that some day, despite congressional inaction, April will come, which here is not the cruelest month, but the Month When The Sun Returns.
It’s a good life-lesson for all those days when I feel slightly overwhelmed, when the responsibilities, memories, and fears that rim my life trap too much stagnant air, too many heavy emotions. Look up. April will come.
Of course, there’s another, more immediate, way out of the fog. This is why so many people in Walla Walla have taken up skiing. Mountaintops rise from The Fog like little islands of normality in a sea of gloom. For the price of a two hour drive, and the inconvenience of applying chains to your car, you can escape the chilly oppressive grayness and bask in a carefree, sunny landscape where glistening white offers respite from murky gray. Up is good. Of course, sooner of later, you’ve got to come down.
So, we have to remember that The Season of Fog is just that, a season. The sun will come back. By July, we’ll be wishing for a little of fog’s humid coolness. But today, The Season of Fog has arrived. Here in Walla Walla, we are hoping it’s a short one.