Happiness, In A Fog

Early morning fog, Bastrop Bayou


Rather than defining happiness, the poet Jane Kenyon prefers to describe its coming in her poem of the same name.

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.


And, I might add, it comes to the egret and heron alike, to the bank-lining reeds, and to the watcher in the fog. It may even come to the fog, unless, of course, it comes as the fog itself.



Comments always are welcome.

59 thoughts on “Happiness, In A Fog

    1. You’re welcome, Gary. I was going to use your “special word” as the title for this one, but decided to hold on to it for a bit. It’s so great, it deserves just the right image.

    1. I certainly was happy to see the birds appear. I’d left home in bright sunshine, but the farther west I traveled, the heavier the fog became. When I no longer could see the sides of the road, I pulled over next to this little backwater connected to the bayou. Eventually, the fog began to lift, and I discovered there were breakfasting birds out and about.

    1. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t the prettiest spot in the world, but the combination of early morning light and fog transformed it. When the birds appeared, I thought to myself, “Well, isn’t this a happy turn of events?” and that reminded me of Kenyon’s poem.

      I’m happy you enjoyed the pairing. A little respite in the midst of the day’s concerns never is a bad thing.

    1. Like fog, depression can dull the colors of the world and muffle its sounds: one reason that I changed the title of this post and added the poem. The lifting of the fog seemed to me like Kenyon’s depiction of the coming of happiness.

      I met her work through her poem “Let Evening Come”. It’s simplicity and directness are quite powerful.

  1. I always feel surprised a bit, when someone refers to fog as spooky, ghostly, or melancholy. I love the fog, especially an early morning misty day, and even mundane scenes can become beautiful. Well, your lovely foggy picture and good poem have sent some happiness my way, thanks Linda!

    1. I’m a fog lover, myself. When I lived in Berkeley, one of my favorite things to do was to go up to the top of the Berkeley Hills and watch the fog coming in, over, and around the Golden Gate Bridge. Ground fog here isn’t nearly so active or interesting, although our sea fog can be delightful. But there are days when being in the right place at the right time can offer some lovely sights — like these birds in a bayou backwater.

      I’m glad to have added a bit of happiness to your day, Rob.

    1. Those are absolutely wonderful images. It’s interesting how the fog can take on such different characteristics. “December” and “blowing in” suggest it was a sea fog — probably my favorite of all the fogs we get. Even the white birds look good in fog, as your photos show.

      I did see something a week earlier I’ve never seen before: coots in flight. For years I’ve watched them appear in the fall, and disappear in spring, and of course they had to be flying at some point to accomplish the migration. But I’d never seen it.

      I thought I was photographing geese until I came home and put the photos on the computer. Tucked into the middle of the geese were these rotund little black birds with stubby wings, short feet, and white faces — when I realized they were coots, I couldn’t have been more delighted. I’d heard they fly only at night, because they’re so bad at it, and I saw them about 8 in the morning. I was trying to get down there much earlier on the day I took this photo, to see if I could find them again, but the fog put an end to that.

          1. You finished that thought just the way I thought you would. I have such affection for coots. I’ve still seen only a few at the refuge, and just three or four in the marinas, but they’re clearly on their way.
            After this week, I’m sure there will be even more.

            By the way — I assume you’ve seen that the prognosticators are muttering about snow over your way — tomorrow night. It won’t stick, of course, but you just might get to see some. Here’s what the guys I follow say:

            “So we’re probably going to have the ingredients in place for precipitation to fall as snow tomorrow night, BUT it will all hinge on how quickly the atmosphere dries out. Right now, we think that it will dry out quickly enough in most of the Houston metro area to avoid snow, other than perhaps a few flurries at the tail end of the rain. As you go south of Houston, say into Brazoria or Matagorda Counties or down closer to Corpus Christi, there may be the right combination of cold air and moisture to allow for snow to fall. Some models do hint at the possibility that enough precip will fall as snow down there to accumulate a little bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple snowy scenes from the Coastal Bend on Friday morning.”

            Wouldn’t that be sweet?

            1. Just think Linda, that’s how we “met” first. It was your post on the Weather Underground about our Christmas Miracle that introduced me to your writing. And, it’s my picture of Christmas morning that we still hang above the mantle for the festive season to prove, even to ourselves, that miracles do still happen and even on the Texas Gulf Coast you can have a White Christmas..

            2. That’s right. I remember your comment on that post so long ago. I re-read it yesterday when I heard about the snow possibility, and very well may repost it. Even if I don’t, it was fun to remember the experience.

  2. I like the quietness and misty atmosphere of a fog.There is not much foggy weather in my little niche of central Texas but the further south one goes there is early morning fog. I really like this lovely pic of the great egret.

    1. Fog does provide a nice atmosphere, doesn’t it? We’ve been a little short on it this year; it’s only been in the past two weeks that we’ve seen significant morning fog. With the forecast for cooler weather, we may be moving into the sea fog season, and that makes me even happier. I can’t varnish in these ground fogs that leave everything soaking wet, but I can work around a blowing sea fog if I have to.

      Later this day, the fog lifted and the sun came out, and I got some really nice closeups of the egrets and a great blue heron that was taking a bath. I’d never seen that, and it was quite a sight. He’ll show up eventually.

          1. Oh, the bathing great blue is so cute. The ruffled feathers are interesting as it is bathing, as opposed to a sleek body that is so neat and very clean when the heron is wading in the marsh or where ever. I love the eye expression, if one can say a bird has expressive eyes and or face.

            1. I’ve always thought birds have expressive faces. Of course, I suppose we read some of our own meaning into those expressions, but on the other hand, there’s no question that I’ve seen birds irritated, or sleepy, or frightened. It’s great fun to catch them in moments like this. Every time I go to the refuge, I see something I’ve never seen before.

  3. I was so hoping somebody would post a photo of the fog, Linda — thank you! I know it’s treacherous to drive in, but I do enjoy looking at it from afar.

    Kenyon’s poem speaks well to the elusiveness of happiness. I’ve long believed that being happy comes from within, not without, though of course circumstances have a way of affecting our moods. We’d like to believe that everyone has a chance at happiness … eventually.

    1. On my way to the wildlife refuge, the fog became so thick there was zero visibility. The two lane road I was traveling is a prime route for fishermen pulling boats, and it just seemed better to pull over and wait it out. I was glad I did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten this photo.

      Happiness certainly can be elusive. There isn’t any formula, and there certainly isn’t any program we can follow to find it. As you say, it comes from within; some of the happiest (or most content) people I’ve known have been so despite some challenging circumstances. And it can be a choice, too — I’ve known a few people who seem determined beyond all reason to be unhappy. They often succeed.

  4. The fog gives such an ethereal beauty to the image. Wonderful poem, too! Happiness is abound, but we don’t always realise it is there, see it or feel it for we sometimes get swamped and buried in our hectic lives. ‘Time’ is so very precious, but so is ‘Pause’ :) They should go hand in hand.

    1. I’d never thought about the “pause” button as a metaphor for temporarily disengaging from our frantic activity, but it’s a good one. It is easy to become swamped, as you say, by all of the concerns of daily life, and an occasional stepping back may in the end lead to a more healthy reordering or our priorities.

      I’m glad you like the poem. Kenyon’s not as well known as some of our poets, but I’ve always found her work accessible and engaging. This poem seemed just the right match for the image.

    1. Your comment made me smile, Terry. The opposite’s true, too. When I left home on the morning I took this photo, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. Then, I drove through a little ground fog. As I went farther west, it became thicker, until it finally hit pretty darned close to zero visibility. I pulled over to wait it out, and as it began to lift, I saw the birds. Sometimes, things work out.

  5. Give me fog anytime. A bright blue sky, stark with the relentless sun seems to create a poetry bypass.
    Love the photo of the keen eyed birds watching for a frog or so. I bet they don’t worry about happiness.

    1. Isn’t it interesting how the weather, the seasons, and the natural world in general can affect our moods and productivity? I was talking with someone last week about life in northern California. When I first moved there, the gorgeous skies and perfect temperatures day after day were a delight. Eventually, I started grumping a bit, asking, “Don’t you people ever get a thunderstorm? Or maybe even some clouds?” Eventually, the fog showed up, and that was good.

      Your comment about the birds’ lack of worry reminded me of a favorite verse, and the film that took from it for a title: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.” I’ll bet the flowers don’t worry, either.

  6. Tranquility for all, except perhaps for the frog that was hiding out in the fog. Beautiful photo, Linda. And I too find fog peaceful unless I am driving through it, or I am watching a scary movie, where the fog always hides nasty surprises. –Curt

    1. You think the frogs have a problem? You should have seen the blue crab community I ran into. The first sign of them were the remains of the crabs that didn’t hide quite well enough — along with some raccoon prints.

      This actually is the first fog photo I’ve taken I’ve liked. The location, with the birds, reeds, and grasses helped a lot. Like you, I find it peaceful, but I was glad I wasn’t on a schedule that morning and could wait for it to lift.

      The only thing that’s worse than driving in fog is being on the water in fog. From your time on the coast, I’m sure you know that both sight and sound can be significantly skewed. If the nasty surprise turns out to be a fully loaded cargo ship –well. I don’t think there’s been a year in the past twenty-five that there hasn’t been at least one collision in the Houston Ship Channel in foggy conditions. Most cause minimal damage, but “minimal” is open to interpretation.

      1. I found that even baby alligators in Florida are considered tasty by Great Blue Herons. You want to avoid mom, however.
        You don’t want to be kayaking in the fog on the channel between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada during the fog. The big cruise ships can do serious damage to bladder control. –Curt

  7. Well, yes indeed. Happiness as the returning ‘prodigal’–such an apt metaphor. I rather like fog, though the meteorological kind is not something I experience all that often. Lovely post.

    1. Isn’t that ‘prodigal’ image something? I thought she expanded it beautifully, without being heavy-handed.

      As for fog, I suspect there’s none up your way this morning. I’ve been tracking the cold front, and it may be only a few hours until we change from foggy, dewy, and wet to blustery, dry, and cold, with a thirty degree drop in high temperatures between today and tomorrow. Calm and placid has its place, but there’s something exciting about winter frontal passages. I suspect you have a lot of birds sheltering in your garden.

    1. You know how I’ve envied some of your misty and foggy shots — that PNW aura just can’t be beat. Most of the time, we get ground fog that’s like a smothering wet blanket, but now and then we’ll get blowing sea fog. That can be pretty dramatic, if you’re in the right place and not huddle inside because it’s cold.

      It tickled me that they were going in different directions, and seemed to be oblivious to one another. I don’t know if I’ve just never noticed it, or if it’s different this year, but the various species — egrets, herons, ibis, and smaller wading birds — have been roosting and feeding together. Maybe they’ve all signed non-competition agreements.

  8. Oooh, the last leg of my drive to Mindo was at night in the fog, so there wasn’t a blanket of happiness surrounding me – more like 100 percent attention to staying safe! Your image reminded me of that, though the mention of Bastrop snapped me out of the fog memory and transported me into Bayou Country! That great egret looks huge!

    1. I’ve seen some really big egrets this year. I’ve also seen a lot of blue crabs. I think they’re eating well.

      In another context, I remembered this great quotation from E. L. Doctorow this morning. I’d say it applies to painters as well as writers: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

  9. I like the egret in the background too, it’s a very nice moody image with lots to see specially if you click on it to see it bigger. The poem is great with lots to ponder on.

    1. I drove by this very spot last Sunday, and I couldn’t find it. For one thing, the water level rises and falls depending on factors I haven’t fully figured out; I suspect that the system of canals threaded through the refuge plays a role, as water is moved around from one area to another. But beyond that, fog can make a quite pedestrian spot seem ethereal and beautiful — as I think happened here.

      I’m glad you like the poem. I have two or three more of hers tucked away, and enjoy them regularly, so they’ll probably show up here eventually.

  10. I do love fog. It’s so atmospheric! What a wonderful poem, how beautifully it enhances your delightful picture. Lucky you spotting such a scene.xxx

    1. Lucky me, getting grounded by fog so I had nothing to do but sit around and wait for it to lift. Had there been no fog, I never would have stopped. If I hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have seen the birds. Had I not seen the birds…

      It reminds me of the wonderful little rhyme:

      “For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
      For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
      For want of a horse the rider was lost.
      For want of a rider the battle was lost.
      For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
      And all for the want of a nail.”

  11. Ja! I just looked at the recent post and looked at the ‘previous’ post and thought it said, ‘happiness in a frog.’ i was expecting to see an image of a frog with sticky toes on a window! not!

    it allowed me to admire that great egret again!

    1. I have exactly three frogs in my files: one green tree frog, one algae-covered something, and the eyes and legs of a frog-in-a-bog who wasn’t willing to come hither. I have heard a lot of frogs jumping into the water, but I’m going to have to learn some new stalking techniques if I ever want a photo.

  12. Normally I wouldn’t find happiness in a fog but the egret and the heron make me smile. They are so absorbed in their own pathways, yet so at ease in the presence of each other. And indeed there is no accounting for happiness.

    1. Isn’t that fun, the way they’re sharing the bayou’s backwater? Despite the fact that they’re birds, I couldn’t help thinking of the expression about “ships that pass in the night.”

      I suspect that little slough looks rather different this morning. They received far more snow down that way, and it’s probably still lingering. Here, I’ve already seen some blue sky, and nearly all the snow is gone. It makes me happy I made the effort to get up so early.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.