At Large : In a fog
Many parts of the world are known for fog. Maine, for instance, is everyone's first thought when conversation turns to fogginess. But, there are a couple of fog categories that distinguish one place from another, in terms of poor visibility. It gets foggy in Maine, for sure, but the fog can be here but not there, or not here but there. It can be low over the ocean, with blue sky apparent right overhead. It can be over there, say a few miles south but headed this way, or it can be high so that you can't see the Camden Hills, but you can see the entrance buoys at the Fox Islands Thoroughfare. It can be thick as a sock at one end of the Eggemoggin Reach and bright clear at the other end, with the wind blowing 15 knots. It can be foggy day after day for two months, as it was one summer a few years ago, and not foggy at all the next.
But, that all has to do with fog variability. Maine is variably foggy. On the other hand, in some places it's not about variability. For instance, the Bay of Fundy is not only foggy a great deal of the time, but it's a fog breeder. It's making fog and shipping it elsewhere. And, there's Woods Hole, which doesn't breed fog, but imports it at every opportunity. That's where I was pottering around in a small boat Saturday evening. If there's patchy fog around, or even patchy fog in the forecast, it is almost certainly camped in Woods Hole. It's a gathering place for fog.
I don't usually get on a boat in the fog. Some folks don't mind it. Some relish the challenge. To many a mariner, fog is nothing special, just another day in the pilot house. But, it's not for me. That's why, when I set out for my 45th high school reunion Saturday evening, I told Moll I'd be back before dark and before the likely late evening fog. By the way, it had been foggy also an evening earlier. That's when I called my classmates to tell them that Moll and I had just finished transporting ourselves to a remote spot for a few days of vacation. It's a place you have to take a boat to get to. There are no services or stores, and we were tired of lugging stuff. So, I was not going to make it to the reunion dinner. I left a message, and a few minutes later the phone rang. It was a classmate calling me names: "The reunion is not tonight, [disagreeable epithet omitted] it's tomorrow." It was a highly localized fog I'd been in, I suppose.
So, the reunion was terrific. Only perhaps 30 or so of 130 or so graduates attended. Many have moved far away, some have died, some don't go in for this sort of nostalgic carrying-on, but among those of us who were there, there was a lot to talk about, maybe even more in some cases than there had been in 1963. Careers, children, grandchildren, marriages and remarriages, and retirement were the main topics, common to all. Although, there was one woman, now retired, who has appointed herself a committee of one to tidy up around her neighborhood. She told us the story of a recent chastening experience she'd had in her new role. On her daily walks, she collects litter that careless others have left behind. She said she tried a new approach the other day, but it turned out to be a mistake. She had found a plastic bag, in which a dog walker had safely contained her dog's daily duty, but not taken it along for deposit at home. My classmate took the bag to the nearest trash barrel, which happened to be in the back yard of a house she was passing. The owner, surprised to see my classmate having her way with his garbage cans, apparently regarded it as a kind of criminal trespass, never mind that it was in the interest of neighborhood improvement and good citizenship. He called the police. My classmate has modified her approach.
Anyway, it got to be nine o'clock a lot sooner than I thought, so when I got to Woods Hole, there was dungeon fog and moonless darkness, combined. Some places are better in the fog than others, the Gulf of Maine, for instance, or mid-Atlantic. In those spots, if you're not sure where you are exactly, you have time to work on it. In Woods Hole you've got to know where you are all the time. My trip was nerve-wracking. I went on the wrong side of one buoy - not a life or death error, thankfully - recovered, felt my way through the Straight and across the tide-wracked, rock-strewn passage to the dock in front of our house. Moll shone a spotlight from the end of the dock, and with luck and her light, I didn't hit a thing.
Of course, everyone knows that reunions are harrowing. Life takes an awful toll on the very best of us and makes an awful hash of the most vulnerable. Even on occasions when we all try to look our best and recognize old friends beneath time's predations, the years show. Fortunately, looking ahead to the 50th get-together, one has to remember that, despite the patchy fog that seems to be so often in the forecast, it will be the bright, fog-free days that stick with us.