Last Monday I visited Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore, a beach that's become a refuge for me. When I left my house that morning, I drove through fog so thick I couldn't even see Mount Diablo. Clouds hugged the hills along the freeway, and the grayness threatened to wipe out everything.
Upon reaching the west side of the Caldecott Tunnel, I once again saw the sun. For some reason the fog hadn't reached Oakland or Berkeley or even San Francisco. It hung above the north bay, the Berkeley hills, and parts of Marin County. Once on the Richmond Bridge, I was inside dense fog again, the bridge disappearing in the distance. It looked as though I might drive right up into the clouds.
At the beach, the fog touched the sand. I could only see a few yards and people seemed to emerge from another dimension as they walked toward me. The sun hid. The place felt ethereal, dreamlike. I found a place on the bluffs to sit and listen to the sound of the waves and immerse myself in that liminal space.
I thought about how I'd gone in and out of the fog several times that weekend. My home in Concord remained socked in for most of the weekend but Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, and other parts of the Bay had been sunny. Each day I'd left my foggy home and traveled into sunny clarity.
Grief has moved through my life in this way lately. Sometimes I feel a rush of warmth, a break in the clouds when things seem bright and clear and real. Other times I feel lost in a fog, unclear of my direction, unsure if the road really goes straight ahead or disappears into nothingness. Just when I feel I've escaped the fog altogether, it creeps back in in the night, clinging to the edges of my psyche the way it hugs the hillsides.
As I sat on the bluff at Limantour, the clouds started to break up. I could see clear sky and then the sun burst through, warming my face. I realized that although the fog always returns, there will be moments of clarity, of warmth. There will be times when I can see the path ahead and take some more steps. And maybe the fog is there to make sure I don't try to move too fast. It slows me down and asks me to pause, to become quiet, to reflect. Just as I did on that bluff at the edge of the world.