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October 21, 2011

When I awoke this morning and parted my drapes, I noticed something I don’t often see here in Ukraine – fog.

Now, this fog is not something so thick as to discourage driving. I was able to see across the courtyard, though not across the street to the next building. But it seemed an appropriate metaphor for the past two days, when I was home sick with a cold.

I know in the United States, people do not usually stay home when they get colds – and honestly, I wish more people would. I was in the contagious stage, when I was doing a lot of sneezing and my nose was running, and I was generally feeling tired and unwell. In other words, I did not really want to deal with people, any more than I should have been doing. Taking medicine helps with the symptoms of the cold, but something I have learned here (as I am encouraged to take days at home when I am sick) is that if you rest at the beginning of your illness, it generally does not get as bad, or last as long, as if you don’t. Logical, huh?

It is also beneficial that I stayed home because the fog as a metaphor was somewhat accurate – my brain felt a bit foggy, and I know that I would not have done as good of work if I had not stayed home. As a matter of fact, on Tuesday, when I was showing the first symptoms of my cold, I was already not doing so well. Unfortunately, I had to (re)record some fairy tales and conduct a guest lecture. Let’s just say it was not my best one.

It is interesting, the use of fog as a metaphor – almost always, it symbolizes confusion, people losing their way. Fog blinds us – we cannot see, we get lost, we lose our footing. In general, it is used in a rather negative sense. In fact, I have also used it in that sense – feeling as if I was in a fog, when I am depressed (though for me it is usually darker than merely a fog).  Fog is a favorite for use in literature, as there is much that can be done with it, and in movies, where it usually is somewhat menacing.

However, it can also symbolize escape, or a refuge from reality. Fog has its own kind of beauty – it seems as if life is quieter somehow when it is foggy. If you escape into the fog, you can sit still and clear your mind (ironic thought, considering I just used it as a metaphor for being confused, but it is true). Fog is calm somehow. I’ve never understood why people fear it. Granted, when I have driven in it, I become wary, but that is usually because of other drivers (who seem to think that little visibility is no reason to slow down their speed and be cautious).  To me, fog brings peace.

Carl Sandburg wrote a poem called fog, that goes like this:

“The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.”

Here in Kirovograd, it is 11 a.m., and the fog is already moving on. It stayed long enough to bring a little bit of peace to our morning, and now the noise of the day has returned. We can see clearly again, whether or not we want to.


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