Driving through the fog

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foggy corn field

This week featured five full days of dense fog. If you are a regular reader, you may remember my column about the fog calendar from a few weeks ago. The fog calendar predicts that 84 days after a fog event there will be either significant precipitation or more fog. This has been the foggiest winter I’ve ever experienced, which, if you believe in the fog calendar, does not bode well for lambing and calving season.

This week I was also scheduled to travel a few hours away to present at a women in ag conference in eastern Montana. I generally avoid making commitments in the winter because deciding to make plans on the Northern Plains seems to operate much like the fog calendar: If you have somewhere you need to be it’s guaranteed to start storming.

I’d thrown caution to the wind, however, and agreed to present because I’ve finally started to feel healthier after over a year of being sick, and I was excited for a small adventure. As the conference date approached I kept watching the forecast and was surprised to see warmer than usual weather predicted. No precipitation, no wind and temperatures above zero? Could this really be the forecast in February?

I hadn’t thought to worry about fog though, and the morning I was supposed to leave we could barely see down our driveway to the road. I was sure it wouldn’t last — we live in an arid ecosystem for gosh sakes — and it definitely couldn’t be widespread. I got in the car and started driving.

I was an hour from home when I decided I couldn’t take any more of the endless white. The highway between where we live and Miles City, where I was headed, is a two-lane country road. It’s mostly flat and it’s a straight shot west. The road wasn’t icy. The chances of something bad happening were slim — even deer seem to shelter in place during fog — but it still felt oppressive and more than a little crazy making to keep driving while only able to see a short distance ahead.

Just before the Montana border I pulled over and called my husband. “Can you check the radar,” I asked. “And see if you can tell where this fog lifts?”

“I think you might be near the end of it, but I’m not sure,” he replied after a few minutes of scrolling.

I got out of the car and walked into the swirling mist. The grass and trees just ahead of me looked like mirages from another time and place, shimmering gray and gold ghosts inhabiting the world of white; the fog was so thick my skin and clothes were immediately damp from the fine droplets of water.

I started to cry. The thought of going back was as horrible as going forward. I had been so sure the fog would lift at any moment that I’d driven farther than my nerves were ready to deal with and if I turned around now I’d have to drive through it all again in reverse. I stood in the fog for a few more minutes then got back in the car and kept heading west.

It was barely 10 minutes before I broke through the dome of white, the horizon line suddenly stretching to span the sharp teeth of mountains fifty miles away. I exhaled and realized the feeling I’d had driving through the fog was exactly the same feeling I’d had through the year of mysterious and difficult-to-treat illnesses — the oppressive fear of not knowing if or when I’d feel better, and the white noise of my body in distress obscuring almost everything else.

Despite the delays, I made it to Miles City right on time and had 24 wonderful hours hanging out with some of the coolest women I’ve ever met. I was, and am, so glad I didn’t turn around. That night, lying in my hotel room before I fell asleep, I thought, this is what faith feels like: Trusting that you’ll arrive where you are supposed to arrive, even if none of it is visible yet.

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Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.

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