When I moved to Seattle in the aftermath of my divorce, I was emotionally broken. I had stayed years longer than I should have with a man who would succumb to the ravages of alcoholism a mere year and a half after the marriage ended. It was a dark time for me. Trying to restart my insurance sales career in a new city, I joined a breakfast networking organization. One early September morning, heading down to the waterfront from the Denny Regrade, I walked in fog so thick that I could barely see the sidewalk in front of me.
I grew up in the desert and didn’t know much about fog other than what I saw in old British moves where, it seemed to me, rain and fog always went together. So it was a big shock to me that morning, when once the breakfast meeting was over, I stepped outside to discover that the fog had burned off, and I walked home in brilliant sunlight. I went straight home and wrote this poem which can be found in my book of poetry, After the Fire.
I walk in fog
Its velvet touch caresses me
And hides the hurt.
Beyond the fog
The sun shines clear and bright
I must keep moving
I have earned the light.
I wrote that in September of 1981, and I did keep moving after that. In 1985, while doing a poetry reading at a widowed retreat, I met Bill, a man whose first wife, Lynn, died of breast cancer two years to the day after my first husband died. They both passed away a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Our two families had been through some tough times—emotionally and financially. Dealing with a longterm chronic illness with a fatal outcome is hard on everyone—the patient, the spouses, and the kids.
We met, compared notes for a while, relearned how to laugh, and got married six months after meeting. People made fun of us about that amazingly brief courtship, but we had both had our lifetime’s worth of dreams blasted into oblivion. We had no idea how much time we had, and we didn’t want to waste a minute of it.
I’m writing this on Wednesday, the day before our 32nd wedding anniversary. It turns out we had way more time than either of us expected! But that’s why, on this day of unexpected and unseasonal sun in mid December, I’m thinking about fog.
You see, thirty-two years ago this week, the sun came out and a bank of fog settled in over the entire Puget Sound area. Bill’s house in south Bellevue was high enough that we were above the fog line. We could see the gold statue of Maroni on top of the Mormon Temple and we could see Mount Baker far to the north, but everything else was under that blanket of fog. The weather held for days. Planes couldn’t land or take off from Sea-Tac. The minister performing our wedding flew in from Kansas on a plane that had to land at Boeing Field. My parents got as far as LA and then turned around and went back home to Arizona because their flight was canceled. Bill’s mother and sister and baby made it to the wedding after spending most of 24 hours at LAX.
By the time we got back from our all-too-brief honeymoon, the fog had finally dissipated, and there’s been no similar recurrence since—at least not one serious enough to shut down the airports. So it feels to me as though in terms of weather and in terms of our lives together, we’ve had 32 years of light. There have been challenges along the way, of course, but over all it’s been a long stretch of smooth sailing.
I have no doubt that some of the people reading this post are looking at the holidays through their own difficult circumstances—their own kind of fog. If that’s the case, maybe you need to go back, read through that poem one more time, and imprint it on your heart.
Keep moving. The sun is out there. You have earned the light.