What ultimately bothers us about fog is not what it is, condensed water droplets caused by air being cooled to the dew point, a cloud on the ground if you will, but its ability to obscure our vision. But could it also make us more aware of our surroundings?
I can see clearly now, the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day
Is my mind just bent on trying to create irony, juxtaposing the song against the weather? Not quite. Rather, it is the realization that when our vision is slightly obscured, we actually pay more attention to the things around us in order to avoid bumping into them. By paying closer attention, we are actually seeing more than we do when the weather is clear.
Popular literature has long given foggy weather a somewhat spooky or devious connotation. Bad guys hide in the fog. Ghosts are imperceptible in the fog. Figures on the road are shadowy and their intentions are unclear. Jagged rocks are hidden from passing ships in the fog. Fog is an easy way to build a bit of drama in a story.
Some places, especially cities built on peninsulas such as London and San Francisco, are treated to fog on a regular basis. Many days one can sit on a park bench and observe the coming and going of fog as it moves across the water and onto the land like a menacing monster. In fact, during Europe’s “black death,” which accounted for the deaths of 60% of the population, incoming fog was considered by many to be bringing death right along with it, causing people to run into homes and shutter windows, sealing themselves against anywhere the fog might enter.
Inherently, we don’t like to be confused or caught up in a fog because it is our instinctive nature to perceive those conditions as potentially dangerous. Our sense of self-preservation kicks in to help us safely resolve the situation, whether it’s double-checking before pulling into an intersection or going back over a set of instructions to make sure we didn’t miss a step. Where perceived clarity might lead us to be mentally lazy, fog forces us to pay attention, which can hardly be seen as a bad thing.
Fog also brings with it a sense of surreal beauty, as seen in today’s photo. Fog softens edges, obscures details, and in a photograph can even alter our perception. Consider the object in the top center portion of the image. If one is familiar with the geography and landmarks, or is paying careful attention, one knows that is a Coca-Cola sign that has been in place for years. At first glance, though, especially if one is seeing a smaller version of the image, the round logo appears to be a blemish needing to be removed from the image. I could show a full-color picture of the same location taken on a clear day and one would likely not pay nearly as much attention.
Holy fog, Batman. Those ground-level clouds really do help us see things more clearly. It really is going to be a bright, bright, sun-shining day.