I went out for a walk with my dog after midnight.
When we started walking, I looked up at the moon, which is about two-thirds full, and thought, “Wow, what a clear night!” It was 28 degrees out when we left.
We had walked maybe a third of a mile, at most, when I noticed it was getting foggy. We live in a semi-arid region, and while we do have fog once in a while, I associate it more with other places I’ve lived than I do with here.
Unsurprisingly, there weren’t a lot of folks out there during our walk. We encountered no other pedestrians. A car would drive past every few minutes. The fog got thicker.
When we had walked a mile, I could no longer see far at all. The moon looked hazy, like it was trying to break through a cloud cover, but there weren’t any clouds in the sky. Just fog. It started reminding me of hazardous drives back in Illinois during my teen years, when a cold front would come in on the warmer air and suddenly visibility dropped from twenty miles to twenty inches. I’m almost exaggerating.
The next streetlamp became a glowing spot in the air. I couldn’t see the pole. They aren’t set very far apart. I wasn’t really nervous–the part of town we were walking in is very unlikely to present any real dangers, on a twenty-something degree Friday after midnight. I was out with friends a few weeks ago and know first-hand that there’s a bar in town where a fight might be breaking out the very moment I decided Nicki and I had no threats on the street.
But it’s funny: I had to decide consciously that nothing was out there to make me feel nervous. Once I did, I felt peaceful and relaxed and just cold enough to keep me walking briskly. Nicki stopped to sniff often, but we moved along steadily. I wasn’t uneasy, just aware that if anything did appear, we would have little notice. Headlights were showing up at the same moment I could hear the car.
For those cold walk connoisseurs, the air was frigid enough to feel in my nose but not enough to freeze my nostrils. My standard for cold is still leaving high school basketball practice, walking from the locker room to the car, and in that time my wet hair freezing solid and my nostrils freezing closed.
Nicki and I walked a little faster back uphill toward our house. We had walked a rectangle of a few miles and, nearing the final side, either she was chilly or she’d smelled enough. She paused less and trotted more.
Then, to my complete surprise, we walked out of the fog. It was exactly the clear night we’d started in. I turned to look behind me and the fog was still there, just as thick. I couldn’t tell when we were coming out of it–it didn’t seem to lessen at all–but looking back I could see where it started, or at least I could see what I couldn’t see. That is, I could identify clearly what was missing.
The route we took was downhill, so it’s possible that “down there” was just warm enough to cause the fog when the cold air rolled through. But it’s only a few feet difference in elevation.
I looked up at the moon again, and had the same thought–“Wow, so clear!” But it wasn’t the same, because on its heels followed, “But you can’t see from everywhere as clearly as you can from here.”