The fog has returned after so many years of drought, rolling in from the ocean, settling in the valley and wrapping the village in mysterious scrims of faint images. This is not your poetic ‘little cat feet’ kind-of-fog, but more like a sodden water balloon, which dropped on us, has failed to burst.
For days Andie and I ventured into our early morning walks to the church and back swirled in atmosphere as we make our way. Trees and vegetation seem distorted and unusually large in perception. Their bare dark branches are silvery, gray and pale, beautiful in the dim light. In spots where the fog is thin some high distant sun illuminates and its iridescent presence is delightful in the tempered darkness. The evergreens present huge amorphous forms that dwarf the Shepard man, who appears out of the fog with his dog, Rocky, just at this time of day every day but Sunday. Andie likes Rocky and after a polite sniffing of parts jumps back and forward to play. But, Rocky is too cool to play with Andie and she is soon distracted by a clot of crows, who annoyed by having their clutch disturbed, fly to the branches above and make snarky conversation about the rude mammals below.
Bay folks have a special fondness for fog and we missed her during the drought decade. I recall living on Kite Hill in the City years ago and watching the summer end when energized tsunamis of rolling, tumbling fog crashed down from the Twin Peaks like some dystopian disaster only to suddenly dissipate a block from the front door of the house and when walking to the back terrace, viewed a sunny city moving in its various rthymns of diversity. Fogers live in the Avenues and some of us in Upper Market settled for the sun.
Andie does not know all that of course. Her world is an immense universe of olfactory wonder and her small head bends down to its adventures of past transits, while mine looks upwards and when nearing the church environs slips out an involuntary child-like petitionary prayer that I won’t stumble and fall, because I can’t manage the cane, the poop bag and Andie at the same time. I wonder what it would be like to juggle all those things like the Cirque de Solei of church Street. I let Andie go where she may, because this is her hour and her world to explore.
On the trudge back up the hill I am enchanted by dear neighbor Evelyn’s Persimmon tree. Black wet branches display beautiful, bright orange, soft sweetness, which the crows, perched near their delicious occasion, peck and eat them. Then, true to their species, they bray like avian donkeys about their successful marauding of the human ones. The poet Bassho would love this scene:
“In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred
bones and nine orifices there is something, and this
something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a
better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is
torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.”
I think of the ‘old man’ Basho in me, in the third person and embrace words as the colorful jewels of the end game, the winter pause and the blanket of chilly mist that heralds the emerging warmth of a green spring. Evelyn’s rock wall is topped with dark green Mexican daisy bushes exploding with bright yellow flowers and I say to myself, ‘Hello old friend.’
The old County trail, whose entrance is not far from the cottage, is a splendid adventure in these winter days. The lagoons and marshes are full with rain and migratory birds populate their resting water. Herons, egrets and ducks stand or float in dignified silhouettes until ripples from an occasional otter define territory and they move along.
All is green and a thousand shades of such. The grasses in pastures, vineyards and banks of turf are emerald and stunning in the call of renewal. Sunlight blazes the bright yellow of wild mustard growing in the furrow rows. On the trail flowers appear here and there from the garden escapees of old farm houses now razed and vanished under the profits of industrial agriculture. Delicate pink roses bud entwined on old fences and thicket brush. Pussy willows are just peeping forth. Daffodils, paper-whites and a crocus or two hint of the old days when farm wives brought beauty and refinement to the kitchen garden.
The cottage garden against a backdrop of ancient old oaks tinted with faint green is resplendent with red and pink winter camellias, fire red sage and tiny, pale blue flowers on the rosemary hedges. When the sun peeps through we run out and walk around. Andie keeps score where the new gopher mounds are. I keep score of where the gophers have ruined more roses. Trace and Bodhi’s grave is now an overgrown jungle of jasmine, roses, camellia, and other flowering wonders soon to riot. Few know my lost ones are buried there now. The boy statue guarding the buried ashes is mute and hidden. It once graced an old grave generations ago before its heralding life here when some drunken kids one Halloween took hammers to it. Its re-purpose in the thicket of roses gives it a gentle new life. That’s OK. Time is passing, but now is always with me.
In the village spring has arrived. It is mid January and we celebrate. Daffodils have popped up in the cat lady’s tiny rose garden. A young silent man lives there now. Andie and I finally met him during the fires when the neighborhood gathered in the street to assess our fear and make plans for flight if necessary. The fires stopped about three miles from us and we escaped the worst, but for a month the air was dangerous to breath and smelled like burning plastic for days.
The fires were a brutal wake-up call for the quickly moving transience of the seemingly most stable life. I can no longer move in the future so stay in the now and remain so incredibly grateful for the moments which pass by peacefully in safety and in the embrace of this little place we call home—-the cottage. The Iris have come up, the Daphne are blooming and my last thoughts of the day are warm with the knowledge that Andie and I are curdled up in our warm bed for one more night’s sleep together.