People who don’t live in San Diego for long periods of time don’t know about the fog.
Once in awhile, the marine layer descends upon the city. It slips in and accumulates until it becomes nearly palpable. It is never frightening or sinister. It envelops everything, gently but deliberately. The fog reminds me of being 18 years old and waiting for the campus shuttle in the dark and sort of rousing myself out of autopilot long enough to notice the fog and wonder why it was there.
Anyway, I was driving home tonight when I encountered the fog again. I was waiting at the stoplight, admiring the fog and watching people as they walked down the street in their holiday best and carried large white plates. I was aware of my clothes smelling like a fainter version of the dinner I just ate and creating a hotbox of hotpot in my little blue car. Earlier in the evening, I had waved off several invitations so that I could hurry home and continue reading this particular novel.
I had started and jumpstarted this book many times over. It was a challenge, each time, to keep going. (I get distracted. I am a mass of distractions. In addition, it’s a difficult novel to stomach.) And then I started it, for the umpteenth time, on a recent plane flight where I was strapped into my seat with a dogeared Southwest magazine that I had already flipped through too many times. I started to read the novel, as if for the first time, and it was so wonderful that I could barely stand it. I didn’t want to look up to breathe and I didn’t want to look away to sleep. It was a very uplifting, pure feeling.
When a novel like this one emerges out of the fog and captures my attention, I am content. I calm down again, I focus and refocus. It nudges this strange heart of mine, puts me in a good place because I feel kindly and inspired.
Since as far back as I could remember, I have expected to wring every bit of meaning/intensity out of every moment of my life. I have wanted to get to the heart of the matter every time. I have expected each second of my life to be the ultimate distillate of everything. I want tangible results. I want my socks to be knocked off. I want to be in awe.
I recognize these expectations to be harsh, unrealistic, and slightly unhinged. As a result: I dream in a million fluttery directions. My head houses a box of frogs. I can’t sit still. If I’m not accomplishing things, I feel listless and lame. I want to read everything and learn constantly and collect useless trivia about history and geography and the human condition.
When I can sit still because I am engrossed, the panic and the pressure dissipates. When I am reading in this place which I now call home and everything is veiled by quiet evening fog, it's enough for me.