Each fog has its own character, but they all share a common trait –– that of being a teacher of stillness and joy.
The fog today in West Tisbury becomes visible as a soft grey haze at a distance of a hundred yards or so. It appears as a soft thickening of the spaces between the twisted oak trees found in this area. It softens edges and finally swallows the finer branches and smaller trees to leave a light grey haze without, and a soft joy within.
Fog, for me, has always been softly joyous. Whether it was the dense fog of New Castle Island near Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the mouth of the Piscataqua River as it flows into the Atlantic, the legendary coastal fogs of Down East Maine near Pemaquid Point, the inland river fog in the lowlands of a Northeastern Connecticut mill town on the banks of the Quinebaug River, the dense, fluid and flowing fog pouring through the Golden Gate bridge or falling down into Noe Valley in San Francisco, or now, this light fog and moderate wind mix in the woods of West Tisbury, Massachusetts. All fog. All joy.
The softening and form-reducing effects of fog are not limited to what can be seen by the eyes. The extra water vapor in the air also acts as a diffuser and absorber of sound. Sounds are scattered and the tiny air pressure variations traveling through the fog encounter water vapor droplets during their travels, lose energy and arrive at my ears with less amplitude and with less high frequency content. That means sounds become quieter and softer.
Why would this prompt a soft joyous feeling? The answer is simple. Our essential nature –– spacious awareness, is formless joy. When the forms of the world (thought forms, emotional forms, physical forms) are “turned down” our essential nature is more readily observed in that stillness and the unmistakable quality of a soft, joyous, peace is observed.
Here on my partner Alene’s family property in West Tisbury, Massachusetts a fog is often accompanied by a strong breeze which manifests as sound in the tree tops and wind turbine blades. Wind in the trees actually has different qualities depending on the nature of the wind, and the nature of forest.
As I write in late February (months away from these oak trees having leaves on them) the foggy wind creates a thinner noise than, say, what would be heard in the pine tree grove in the woods not far from here. A pine grove, with millions of fine needles and dense clusterings of those needles, creates many more air pressure disturbances and refractions than a sparse oak forest. With the same wind velocity, the pine grove’s wind noise is denser, has more bass content and tends to feel more solid than a bare leaf, oak forest wind.
Oh, and all of this is dynamic. The “fog” is not a fixed form. Its density changes from moment to moment and the forms it hides tend to appear and disappear following the laws that govern manifestation and dissolution of form. One has an excellent opportunity to contemplate, and become comfortable with dissolution of form in a good fog. The space between trees at one moment shows the wiggly forms of branches beyond the divided branches and then suddenly shifts to a near solid light grey with no forms visible in the same gap. Forms appear in the gaps, then no-form appears in the gap. Lovely. The mind is like this also.
The essence of meditation is not reciting a mantra, nor observing an object nor sitting still, facing a cold wall. The essence of meditation is simply becoming more and more aware of formlessness in the gaps between thoughts as they occur throughout the day wherever one is, whatever one is doing. No-thought formlessness occurs just as naturally as the thought-forms themselves (though far less frequently in the minds of most folks). But one can simply have a soft intention to notice no-thought, and give more attention to these no-thought moments, and remove attention from the thought-forms as they arise. This is awareness of formless spaciousness.
Looking at, and listening to, the visual and aural effects of fog is one of the best meditation teachers one could encounter. And the teaching proceeds directly, without the intercession of dualistic, word-form language. In that is joy.