It’s 4:30am, the low droning starts off in the distance and wakes me from my sleep. I initially think I’m dreaming, but then realize that the low groaning is several miles away. The moaning sound is quiet yet clear— a full-bodied blow that is audible from my cozy apartment on the hill.
Something about the thick blanketing quality of the San Francisco fog transports sound, and when transcribed against the early morning silence, heightens the drone of the foghorns. Despite the melancholy quality of this sound, it is one of my favorites –so incredibly rooted to this place that it couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. Even though my apartment is located in the center of the City, far from the Ocean edge where the foghorns are located, they still wake me on days of particularly heavy fog, when the horns blow in an undecipherable repeat pattern of warning for hours. For me, the foghorns offer a pre-dawn reminder to pay attention—a heads-up of sorts of what the day might bring.
Fascinated by fog since childhood, I have clear memories of watching white-tailed deer sheepishly eating clover in my backyard on foggy and cold autumn mornings. Normally the dear were too timid to come into the yard, but the fog provided an invisible layer of presumed protection that fueled the extra courage they needed to bulk up for the pending Pennsylvania winter. My earliest awareness of fog came from reading the beautiful book Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer as an elementary school student. In the story, young Greta wanders into the fog and is transported into the past. These beautiful words so eloquently described the specific essence of place, home, and the magical adventure of the imagination. I only now realize how important these stories were in forming my early interest in history and historic preservation as a child. (It didn’t hurt that the protagonist’s name was remarkably similar to mine).
The fog is mysterious. It is romantic and often incomprehensible. It provides a filter through which to view the world with softer edges. It can feel equal parts protecting and oppressing. It defines the San Francisco Bay Area in the same way that the rain defines Seattle, or hot and humid summers define Savannah. Fog is magically transporting, especially when fueled by a sleepy early morning imagination plus potential adventure and enchantment it can bring.