When I was in my mid-20s, my (then) fiancée, (now) husband & I applied to business school. We applied all around the country, knowing that acceptance rates were low, and hoping for the best: that we’d both get into the same program, and could move to our next city together.
We were lucky, as UC Berkeley just outside of San Francisco, accepted us both. It was off to Northern California, right across the bridge from his hometown of Marin.
Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast is an adjustment. Seasonal weather, leafy trees, and gothic architecture were quickly replaced by fresh crab, lemon trees, salty air and fog. Lots of it.
That’s what stays with me the most. More than the farmer’s markets, the vintage bookstores on Telegraph Avenue, or the classes themselves. Summer fog, winter fog, day-long fog and morning fog. They just don’t manufacture fog the same way on the East coast.
The Inuits have 50 words to describe their snow: “aqilokoq”:“softly falling snow”; “piegnartoq”:“the snow that is good for driving sleds”; I imagine that Northern Californians have a more intimate understanding of fog. Pea soup, black fog, dry fog, killer fog, sea mist, and valley fog; all names of fog, all unidentifiable to me, even after two years of living there.
“How”, I thought as I wandered out of the lake house one morning recently: “would the Northern Californians classify this?”
“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” I asked Rodney as we headed towards home after wandering for the better part of an hour. I love the fog. I love its haunting stillness.
“It’s just so damp”, was the response.
And with that, I got my answer. Maybe the Inuits love, understand and appreciate their 50 kinds of snow. The fog – at least to the Northern Californian who lives in my home – is defined in terms of what it’s not. Which is, to say, just another day without sun.