One sign of the change of seasons around here is morning fog. It started this month, and August fog reminds me of a high school buddy, Bob.
Bob and I, and often several friends, unrolled sleeping bags on the ground each Aug. 11, lay on our backs, and watched the Perseids meteor shower. After fog curtained the sky, we rolled over and slept. Our sleeping bags and pillows were dappled with water droplets by dawn.
Fog always rose from the north, creeping up from the horizon, smothering the Big Dipper and then the rest of the sky by midnight. A plant that processed ammonia for fertilizer operated on the north side of town. One night, we decided the plant’s operations produced fog. We then decided to walk the half-mile to the plant and ask workers there to stop doing what they were doing. Ah, the unrealistic enthusiasm of youth.
We didn’t go. It was so foggy we decided it wouldn’t do any good. Years later, I figured out that fog rolled down from the hills a couple of more miles north. Later in the evening, it also rose from the river to the south. The route I take to work these days looks down on the river valley from a couple of miles away. From there, I can’t see the valley because of small hills and trees, but after a clear night, even well into fall, even after the sunrise has swept the valley clear, fog traces the river’s path like a white cotton-candy streak.
I no longer watch the Perseids. On a good night, despite the term “meteor shower,” Bob and I would see 40 or so over the course of two or three hours. About 15 years ago, though, the Perseids did not trickle. They swarmed. I saw hundreds, streaking two or three at a time for hours in all directions. It was Biblical, like the line from U2’s allegorical “One Tree Hill”: I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky. Year after year, silent shooting stars fall from the sky, but I’ve never seen Bob again.
But August fog still descends from the hills and climbs from the river valley. It still suffocates the stars. And it always reminds me of long-ago Augusts, meteors streaking like bright bullets.