Fog in Kansas

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Growing up in Kansas, I loved the rare foggy days. The air was still and moist, like a cool kiss. Formless gray where there were usually houses and trees inspired the imagination to wonder what unknown creatures might be hiding in the mist; what mysteries were quietly waiting to be explored.

Later I lived in Eugene, Oregon for a year, and was cured of my love of fog. The daily morning fog near the Willamette River is just as lovely and mysterious as that in Kansas, and its aroma of rotting cedar evoked a walk in wet forest. But as fall wore on into winter, my eyes got hungry for light. Everyone seemed to have bronchitis, and they liked to say that the Native Americans who had formerly lived in the region called this the valley of sickness and death. I don’t recall being ill myself; my only maladies were seasonal affective disorder and a ragingly combative, dysfunctional relationship.

Walking out of that relationship was my biggest achievement up to that time; it was a trial on par with graduating from college. I left Eugene, and there was no question that the place to go was home, which meant the midwest. I had some friends in Chicago. I’d never spent much time there, but the brusque midwestern uptightness of the city felt safely familiar after the hippiefied, enforced easy-goingness of the Pacific northwest, where I’d encountered more discord and conflict than in any other period of my life.

I’ve been in the midwest for twenty years now, in rural Kansas for ten, and I love fog again. I’m still surprised on those rare foggy days, when I step outside, and it doesn’t smell like rotting cedar. I think of those days in Oregon, and I find, if offered the chance to go back there, with the family I have now, I’d say yes in a heartbeart.