Fog Changes a Beach Walk

By Kathy Coogan

We awake the first morning of our beach vacation with fog limiting our horizons. I imagine that a giant has dropped his huge white baseball cap over this resort community creating a silent dome of white. Or maybe this is what it feels like to live in an enormous igloo surrounded by opaque white walls. But that is a metaphor for another climate. The fog is so dense that it feels material, concrete and a little creepy.

I decide to walk on the beach anyway. The giant’s baseball cap keeps up with me, hovering like the black cloud over Joe Blfvstk's head, restricting my vision. I know the geography of the area. We’ve been coming here for thirty years. I know that the condo developments form a valley through which I walk, but they are just a suggestion outside my sight. I turn down the easement between buildings that leads to the beach. The funny thing about a beach resort is that from the road the sights are all man-made – mostly high-rises to justify the use of the expensive real estate.

But walk past the buildings and voila, Nature has the upper hand. The Gulf of Mexico and the sky open up before you. You can imagine that forever is just past the horizon. Except for today. The horizon is at arm’s length. Today there is the giant’s cap hovering, enshrouding me and any other beach-walking diehards. There are a few.

The weirdness of walking through the fog slows everyone. There is the sense that you might walk off the world or into a wall or a pit. I know that the beach goes on for miles north to south along the Gulf but it feels finite as if there will be a precipitous end. My usual stride is fairly long but today it is short and tenative.

I find myself squinting as if the problem is my eye-sight. I blink to clear the film that fuzzes my focus. But the fuzz is in the air, the tiny water molecules that make up the fog. I decide to go back after only fifteen minutes, feeling like I’ve walked longer. Perhaps it’s the tension of anticipating walking off an imaginary cliff.

I walk back to our condo and onto the lanai that overlooks the Intra- Coastal Waterway on a clear day. I see the sun puncturing the fog. It’s an opaque milky marble behind a curtain above the palm trees across the way.

I remember reading a fable from one of my favorite childhood collections. The North Wind makes a bet with the Sun. The North Wind using his majestic power, will remove the cape from the shoulders of a traveler walking on the road below. The Sun smiles placidly and takes the bet.

The North Wind begins to bluster and blow. The traveler gathers his cape around himself. The North Wind blows. The traveler bends to the power of the wind and holds on tight to his cape, gathering it up in his fists.

The North Wind blows and blows, his cold breath creating ice crystals. The traveler struggles against the fury of the icy wind and pushes forward holding onto his cape for dear life. The North Wind blows and blows and blows and finally blows himself out, gasping. The traveler has fallen and rolled into a ball clutching his only protection against the cold – his tattered cape.

The North Wind, out of breath, says to the Sun, “You can do no better.” “But I shall try,” says the Sun. The Sun warms and melts the ice that has covered the traveler. The traveler sits up and blinks. The Sun glows. The traveler stands and begins to walk again, feeling grateful for the warmth that moves through his nearly frozen limbs.

The Sun shines. The traveler picks up his pace to make up for the time lost by the icy storm. He wipes perspiration from his brow. The Sun warms him. The traveler lets his cape fall from his shoulders. The Sun shines on. The traveler removes his cape, ties it around his waist and knows that he will soon be home.

The North Wind groans in defeat, outraged that the smiling Sun has outdone him.

I drink a cup of coffee and watch the Science Project that happens in front of my eyes. The sun warms and dries the air melting the fog. My view expands from twenty feet to fifty to forever. The sun is now a big bold beautiful ball and the fog is a memory. It has taken one cup of coffee.

I love the Sun. I rinse out my cup, grab my sunglasses and visor and head back to the now never-ending beach.

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