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An ode to fog; bring on those winter days.

Byline: Bob Welch / The Register-Guard

Before the rains resumed, I was doing the final inspection of my outdoor Christmas lights. From afar, seeing the white bulbs slightly diffused in the darkness, I was reminded of how much I love it: fog.

Particularly Oregon fog, the kind Ken Kesey described so well in "Sometimes A Great Notion."

My passion for fog goes back to my childhood, when not only was I convinced I could taste it but wrote extensively about it, including, as a 9-year-old, the gripping short story "Foggy Boy," about a lighthouse unable to sound its foghorn. (Don't worry; it had a happy ending.)

Folks such as I are hesitant to admit our passion for fog. To do so, in the eyes of some, is to revel in the misfortunes of others: victims of fog-delayed flights, fog-caused crashes and fog-marred trips home for the holidays.

But sunshine causes skin cancer and people still like it, nor are they skewered for admitting as much. So why should we be ashamed to admit we love fog, particularly here in the Northwest, one of the four foggiest regions in the country, according to the National Climate Data Center?

Unlike sun, fog doesn't cause cancer. Unlike snow, it doesn't have to be shoveled. Unlike rain, it doesn't cause flooding.

Fog is "winter lite." No knuckle-bloodying reality of putting on tire chains or rump-bruising reality of slipping on ice. It's the no muss, no fuss way to experience winter - and no messy cleanup!

It adds an aesthetic touch to our buildings-and-billboard world. Softens the edges. Obscures the obvious. And makes for great photos. Among others, I recall Tom Boyd's magnificent "Islands in the Fog" (Jan. 25, 2005), shot from a logging road above the Mohawk Valley.

What's more, fog drapes football games in added drama; anyone at Autzen Stadium for the Civil War can attest to that. If tiny particles of moisture obscured our views, they also infused the crowd with a certain electricity.

Some, among them state climatologist George Taylor, find fog gloomy. But while it can get a bit claustrophobic after a few weeks, I regard it as a welcome guest. And wonderfully diverse.

You'll be driving on Interstate 5 or Peoria Road and the bare branches against the misty white fields remind you of some Windham Hill cover.

Or you'll see the Coburg Hills wearing a white woolen muffler, fog twisting and turning around the ridges.

Or you'll see wisps of fog hanging over the McKenzie River, and think of that painting your father loved so much: "Steelhead Weather."

Kesey writes of fog that "creeps down the river and winds around the base of the house, eating at the new yellow-grained planks with a soft white mouth." Wonderful words, those.

Fog should creep down rivers and twist around ridges; I just wish it would stay away from clear summer days on the coast. If Carl Sandburg's fog comes on "little cat feet," summer coast fog arrives like Cousin Eddy of "Christmas Vacation': Uninvited. Unwanted. And uncouth, turning nice days into dark, windy days where the only way you can read outside is dressed like a chair-lift operator.

But I digress. Let us not lament coast-crud vacations, let us celebrate the coming winter. December arrives Thursday; from now to January is our foggiest time of year.

Oregon's and California's northern coasts and much of western Washington can expect a nation-high 60-plus days of fog in a given year; so can the Appalachian Mountains and parts of New Hampshire and Maine.

Meanwhile, pity the people of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Wyoming, which get fewer than 10 days of fog per year. Here in the Willamette Valley, we can expect 40 to 60.

I say: Bring it on. Let it roll, creep and swirl. After all, what's life without a little mystery?

To view a really cool "Fog in the U.S." interactive map, see: www.usatoday.com/graphics/weather/gra/gfog/frame.htm.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Nov 27, 2005
Words:663
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