Tuesday January 6 2008
The evening walk in the snow up Bates Creek reveals storm clouds - snow and fog and wind - hanging over the peaks of the Owyhee Mountains ahead. A strong steady breeze tumbles down Bates Creek into my face.
Behind me, there is a presence... something stalking me. Massive, quiet, gray, ethereal...
Sometimes fog rolls its way down the canyons, sometimes it snakes up the canyons, sometimes it rolls over the tops of the mountains and hangs there like a tablecloth. Sometimes it defies or ignores the wind; sometimes it uses it. Sometimes it moves in and settles overhead for a while, cloaking and damping the earth's surface with stillness; or sometimes it just passes right on through with a purpose, on a mission, blotting out the sun only for a brief moment in time, continually rolling and moving. Sometimes it covers a large area; sometimes it singles out a lone canyon to travel.
Tonight it works its way southwest from Oreana up the Bates Creek drainage - shielded from the wind - and when it comes to the junction of Bates Creek and Pickett Creek - where Bates Creek turns northwest and tunnels in the wind - it simply ignores the wind battering it from the side and continues on, choosing to skip Pickett Creek, and instead picks the next wash to travel up. There it continues its silent southwest uphill glide, its fingers sending up little wisps just visible above the ridge, marking its progress. As I walk to within one hundred yards of the fog, the temperature drops 10 degrees, as if I were passing through a physical barrier. This fog carries its own temperature zone.
It's not a living creature... or is it? It is a Thing, a phenomenon with a life of its own, no rules that govern it, other than the whims of Nature. It's like floods (read any of Craig Childs' wonderful books on floods in the desert) or tornadoes, only it's the non-destructive variety.
It's a quiet little gift of nature passing through this evening if a lucky human is there to witness it.