What can we learn from the fog?

I went to the coast last week.  It was a bitterly cold day, icy rain slicing into you and wind that cut straight through you.  On the way home, we spent a while driving through thick fog, unable to see more than a few metres in front of the car.

Whilst I was sitting in the passenger seat, straining to see ahead, a question popped into my head: What can we learn from the fog?

This is partly because a book I’m reading talks about nature in a similar way.  It’s about listening to nature and learning from it.

Dear Fog,

A lot of people see you as scary, a nuisance, a problem. They fight your veil, pushing through and straining and fighting against you. They see you as something to overcome. But I think you are there to slow us down. In our fast paced life, a reminder, or even having no choice, is sometimes necessary.

People don’t like the lack of clarity that comes with you. It’s part of our society – we want to see where we’re going – literally and metaphorically.  We rely heavily on the sense of sight, we are a very visual culture.  People have life plans and their careers and their journeys all mapped out. And you add an uncertainty to that. You take away our main sense and we can no longer see the path in front of us. We know it’s there but we can’t see it and that makes us question and doubt; we do not trust that the path will appear.  But you teach us that it will, when it’s time.

You can confuse us. You can alter our perceptions. Drivers feel like they are going slower and sound travels differently in fog*. Things look different in fog; close trees stand like black skeletons against your presence and paler plants disappear.

You are not like other weather, you are much harder to pin down – you can see the rain, hear the wind through trees, feel the warmth of the sun but you, you are a lack of sight, you have no sound, no taste, there is nothing there to touch or feel. And that perplexes people who are so used to tangible things. Who want to grasp hold of things, control them. Rain can be tempered with an umbrella, the cold with layers, the warmth without layers but you, there is nothing we can do to manage your involvement in our life. Except slow down.

You are different depending on where we are. From the outside, you’re a nebulous cloud, inside you’re a veil across our eyes, towards the edges you just seem to dissipate. Perhaps the same is true for life or projects. When we take are starting out we can look at the whole picture and we can form a vague sense of what we want to achieve, when we’re in the midst of it, it can be really hard to see the next few steps or even know if we’re heading in the right direction, it can be hard to trust that we’ll ever reach our destination and then once we’re almost at our goal, the clarity returns.

Thank you for teaching us that the unknown does not automatically leap to dangerous, to something being hidden from us, the unknown can be a magical mystery as much as it can be fearfilled one. How we approach you will depend on how we interpret what we sense. Head in with anxiety and every movement will be danger.

Thank you fog, for teaching us to trust in our journey, to trust in all our senses to guide us.

Thank you for slowing us down so we can see things differently.

Thank you for teaching us that everything we need is still there even when we can’t see it.


*”Much of how our brains judge speed is by the contrast in our surroundings such as trees or buildings flashing past in our peripheral vision. But in foggy conditions, contrast is greatly reduced giving the impression you are driving slower than you actually are – many drivers actually increase their speed as a result” – Met Office

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