Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Little Cat Feet My Ass


On the campus of San Francisco University.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

--Carl Sandburg


Hmmm. Well sometimes it does, though other times, the fog blasts into San Francisco with gale force winds. I can remember standing on Bernal Hill, close to where I lived most of my years in the city, almost knocked down by the force of incoming fog. At those times, the temperature plunges by ten degrees within a matter of five minutes, while the landscape is transformed from sparkling and shiny, like yesterday's pics, to gray and moody - all at once. Fierce fogs like that are powered by the Pacific Ocean, so its no wonder they can be so extreme.

When I lived in San Francisco, getting out of the fog was my prime directive, particularly because I moved there from Lake Tahoe which is always sunny unless there's a storm brewing. Because I always turned tail and ran when the fog came in, (if possible) I missed out on its magic, failed to notice that every fog has its own personality and plotline (the way that every thunderstorm is a different creature.)

Also true is that fogs shifted gear as they moved east across the city. By the time the fog reached Noe Valley, Bernal Hill and the Mission (where I spent most of my time) it mostly consisted of a low and dreary overcast, unremarkable (and unwelcome) to my eye, though maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention.

The friends I stayed with last week live in Cole Valley, a juncture between the part of the city that exists inside the fog and the neighborhoods that are mostly underneath it. Misty, swirling, mezmerizing, and right in your face, the fog in Cole Valley fools the eye as well as the mind.

It's no wonder San Franciscans understand magic so well. Clouds in most places are remote, but in San Francisco, it's an everyday experience to be enveloped by clouds. The weather gods wave their silky veils right in front of our eyes, sometimes completely obliterating the visual details of the land, sometimes putting just enough fog in a location to make it seem mysterious, other times yanking the fog away to reveal the aquamarine sky and brilliant sunlight. It's not uncommon to experience all three environments on the same day. I always loved the idea of fog being "burned away" or "burned off." It's conceptually so interesting.

Never before would I have imagined I could enjoy fog, but last week I was enchanted - even seduced - by its charms. Who knew that even the fog would contribute to my perfect vacation? Isn't that cool?


That house is not actually on fire. Its windows are reflecting the late afternoon sun. Between the house and the camera lens, a beautiful, thin, gauzy sort of fog created the dramatic vision.

30 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

Fog is indeed the magic of the Bay. I love it, and think about it often. Even when I experience it somewhere else, I think of that City. Thanks for posting this. Only a true San Franciscan can see that it isn't gentle and kind like cat's feet. If you sat through a ballgame at Candlestick Park, you know how hard it can be. Love this stuff, Reya. Keep it coming!

EFH

ewix said...

What's most wonderful to me is to be high on a hill or mountain --with fog underneath you!!
Glad you had a super break on the west coast.
Keep me posted as to your dates in NY.

robin said...

It's wonderful when the door swings open on unexpected beauty! The day I first entered SF, a thin ribbon of fog wound it's way through the downtown towers like a banner flown from a Maxfield Parrish castle. It thoroughly confirmed that I had entered the Emerald City!

lakeviewer said...

Fog is both magic and dreary, dreamy and treacherous. I'm glad you enjoyed the experience on this trip.

I bet you enjoyed the cool weather too.

Reya Mellicker said...

The weather was beautiful, cool but not too cool both in the city and up at the lake.

Now it's beautiful in DC, too. I'm loving it!

NanU said...

Fog can be so beautiful, and such a drag. Perhaps Carl wrote his poem looking out a window, disconnecting his skin from the show.
Around here, fog occurs on the mountain, where passing clouds get stuck on their way east. Not so much in the valleys. Some days it's clear down here and the ceiling hides all but the closest hills.

Linda Sue said...

The SF fog can indeeed be intense- what used to creep me out was walking in a particularly dense area, the park, and having a large person appear immediately in front of me- snap, just like that! Fog gives me the shivers.

Nancy said...

I like fog, mainly because I have never lived in it very much. I feel great if I'm inside, but very vulnerable if I'm driving or walking in it. I like being able to see, I guess. No surprises.

But I love The City, as it's known here. No need to identify which city, we all know there is only one city near us and that is The City.

Beautiful pictures, as always.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Reya, so glad to have you back & look forward to your posts based on your travels as I always look forward to your DC posts. Welcome home!
I love SF. I once was married to a naval officer & we traveled to SF quite often for his duty. We stayed on Treasure Island (which is now closed & has been for some time). It was so easy to catch a bus to the city, a ferry to Sausalito, etc. I haven't been there in years & miss seeing it. We also used to do civilian business in SF & many times stayed in the Cow Hollow area.
Lizzy

Rose said...

Sometimes it rolls off the sea here but I have never seen it come with that sort of force! Standing on a beach in the fog, listening to the waves is nice and I love the little bits of mist that dust the hollows of fields on some mornings.

Bee said...

Funniest title of the day.

I have a love/hate with fog, too. I was in Norfolk this weekend in (mostly) sun, but I'm sure that a dramatic fog has covered those pristine beaches today. Such great pictures, Reya. You take us there.

Steve said...

San Fran has very strange weather -- I remember being awed by its variability when I visited years ago.

Sandburg was probably writing about Chicago fog, not San Fran fog!

Joanna said...

Living on the west coast here in BC we get fogs too but nothing like those in San Francisco. It's the temperature drop that is most amazing. I love your line: The weather gods wave their silky veils right in front of our eyes. What a way with word you have Reya. Also with images.

Liza said...

I love the title of this post! The pics are incredible.
Fog is so mysterious...
Thanks for sharing.

e said...

SF has been my only experience of dense fog, and it varied from scary to gently enveloping, depending upon the day, but then again, I didn't have to live in it as I was only a visitor.

The photo of the house is terrific.
Great post title, too.

willow said...

I adore mysterious fog. I'm looking foward to the cool fall mornings when it rolls in off the river and rests amoung the pines. Ahhh.

Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip. Welcome back!

Reya Mellicker said...

Steve I bet you're right! I always thought it was about San Francisco ... thanks for this!

Barbara Martin said...

Great post and photos today, Reya. I like fog in small doses, though the fog in San Francisco and in other locations along the Pacific coast can be very dense. Almost as if it has its own life form. I can hear the Twilight Zone music now...

steven said...

hi reya - i love fog. i love that forms, colours and sounds soften. i've only ever known inland fog. your telling of the roaring-in fogs of san francisco was unexpected!!! do people change when there's fog like that? steven

Verily I go. said...

oh Reya this is so beautiful. Did you get chocolate?

Butternut Squash said...

I'm so glad you went on an adventure and so happy that you have returned. I was thinking about fog this morning too. There is often a morning mist in Kathmandu. People work very quietly in this fog, perhaps because it seems other worldly.

Ulysses said...

This morning, on the way to work, the river was foggy here. Thanks for remining me of that.

Kerry said...

In Oregon the fog drapes itself around the hills and mountains; I love watching it. I am so glad you had such an amazing time in Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, two splendid places.

Barry said...

Fogs are rare here in Ontario, but when they come they are magic.

Your top photo is beautiful and very dramatic. I can picture it on the cover of a novel.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ulysses! So glad to "see" you here!

Steven good question. Do people behave differently in the fog? They surely must. Here in DC even facial expressions change drastically when the weather changes.

In SF right now, everyone has their head lowered while they work on their iphones, so I didn't notice any difference. But I was only there for one day.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes Barbara, the Twilight Zone music, oh yeah!

IntangibleArts said...

best title EVAH.

Faithful said...

I revel in "The City's" mystical fog..I always loved visiting S.F. but never knew of it's magic until I stayed alone for a extended time while my husband was fighting for his life in a S.F. hospital bed and I walked the streets together with some of that fleeting fog, clouds and warm sun. I loved your post.

Rick said...

Hi Reya, welcome back!
We are on our way west as I type from our hotel room in Grand Island, NE. We saw lots of fog too so far on our journey, but mostly ground fog in the a.m. spreading across fields and hanging in the dips anc hollows. Ghostly. It transforms the landscape around it for sure! I love fog!

lettuce said...

the black and white photo is stunning