Something about fog in the mountains always makes me think of Tolkien. I think it has something to do with the surreal unreality that mist brings. It settles like a cloak, the edge always just out of reach. There is a bubble of visible landscape around you, and that bubble moves as you do, but you can never quite reach the wall to pop it and unveil the world. Fog is hovering water, playing tricks on you as it gently rises to the sky or settles to the ground.
Sometimes while hiking I would come to the edge of a cliff, look out, and see absolutely nothing at all. Just a cold, blank, grey nothingness. I often called this "the loading screen" as it reminded my forcefully of when I played old video games from the 90's. Sometimes if my character moved too quickly, the landscape became grey blank, until the graphics engine could catch up and fill in my world around me pixel by panicky pixel. I liked to pretend while hiking that I was just in someone's game, and if I waited long enough, the graphics would coalesce.
But in real life, fog doesn't render. Eventually it will, if you stand still long enough, the fog will lose its density and the environment will begin to build itself back into place around you. But that could take hours, or days, depending on the tenacity of the fog. And so I had to content myself with knowing that I would never see what was on the other side of the fog, because I had to keep moving on.
Even though views are beautiful, and absolute treasures for hikers, sometimes the lack of a view was equally breathtaking. In our regular lives we are constantly bombarded by visual stimuli, constantly having to integrate what's important and what we can ignore. Maybe sometimes we space out and stare into the middle distance, but it's quite rare that we will be staring a literally nothing. But with the fog, you can lose yourself in a literal nothingness. Though, really it's figurative nothingness, because fog is a thing. It's just a thing that makes everything else (the trees, the rocks, the sky and the horizon) go into temporary hiding.
Foggy mornings on the trail made it easy for me to tell stories in my mind of grand adventures gallivanting across fantastical landscapes, with magic and dragons and princesses saving other princesses in distress. Because if the horizon is invisible, anything could be out there. The mist, coupled with the vibrant silence of the wilderness, was a perfect recipe for infinite possibility. My imagination is pretty powerful, but it becomes unstoppable when given a truly blank slate.
|It looks like I'm talking on a cell phone, but I didn't have a cell phone.|
So either I'm scratching my face, or talking into an invisible cell phone.