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A foggy day in London town - and a few other places

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NOT since 1907, possibly, has there been such a February fog. In 1907 the American record was set in meteorological pea soup when the Sequin Light Station on the Maine coast logged in 2,734 hours of fog. That comes to practically one foggy day out of every three, and certainly more during February, winter's foggiest month.

Still, for half a week or so, we, the fogbound of 1984, could match anybody, anytime, here in New England, the fog capital of the world. The thaw moved in and the snow went up like wet smoke. In the depthless fog, streetlamps twinkled like stars, light-years away. Trees thrust up into the swirling mists until the top boughs seemed to attenuate into dotted lines and finally vanished from sight. The world became about 10 feet tall - a universe without a sky.

If one could find no sky, he could barely verify the ground, either. Automobiles became subtly disembodied - reduced to nothing but headlights. Even the sound of their engines lost dimension, muffled as if by gray cotton batting.

In a fog all that is solid, all that is spacious, gets lost.

Some people like their meals by candlelight. Some people like their world in a fog. George Santayana thought that their pervasive mists have given the English a kindlier, calmer view of life - blurring the sharper edges. A worthy fog can turn a smokestack into a monument and a gun turret into a kind of statue , disguising the violence of modern times.

Certainly fog takes a bit of the intensity out of everyday life. It is difficult, if not dangerous, to become agitated in the fog. Life in a fog assumes the leisure of a good dream.

Perhaps for this reason the impressionists of the turn-of-the-century loved fog. Debussy serenaded it in his music. Whistler painted it. The impressionists made fog exotic. Were there ever bridges like Whistler's, suspended in the mist as enchantingly as a spider's web?


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