A lighthouse in the morning fog

This morning I awoke to discover one of the thickest fogs in memory. Only once, back in the early 1970s, do I remember a fog more thick than this one. A friend and I had been given charge of a mutual friend’s 1969 Camaro. I do not remember the series of events that lead us to have this responsibility, but I do remember that we were supposed to drive his pride and joy to his girlfriend’s house by a specific time. The fog, that evening, was so thick and the country roads were so dark that it took us well over an hour for what was ordinarily a 20 minute trip. We could not see the yellow lines of the road! We tried a number of techniques in attempts to increase our visibility, but nothing really helped much. I do not remember how we eventually made it to our destination, but we did arrive, albeit much later than instructed. We all had a laugh about the density of the fog and decided to hang out at the girl’s house for an hour or two. Eventually another friend arrived and his car was equipped with fog lights, so we all decided that he could lead the way out of the muck and back home to our side of town. This morning’s fog was not near as bad as that, but it was a close second.

The magnificent ‘Chief Joseph’ showing off his stunning winter color on a dark, foggy morning at the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden.

By the time I motivated myself to really begin my day, the fog had thinned out some and I took a stroll around my garden. I always enjoy my garden walks in the fog. There is just some measure of magic and mystery that the low light and reduced visibility gives to the garden. Weeping plants seem more alive as they take on creature features in the fog. Background distractions faded from view and the fog accumulated on the foliage and bare branches creating millions of tiny dewdrops, which in the light freeze, added a special sparkle to the garden as the sun brightened and burned a brighter spot into the fog.

Tiny, quick-frozen dew drops created a wonderful effect in the foggy morning garden.

As I wandered around the foggy garden, I thought back to that harrowing drive 40 years ago with my friend. As I turned and approached a curve in my path, I couldn’t see what was lying in wait and my imagination conjured all kinds of fantastic possibilities inspired by years of reading tales of hobbits, elves, gnomes, and dragons. What I did see as I made my way ’round the curve caught me just a little by surprise. It was my old friend, The Chief! Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ was standing tall and glowing his very bright golden yellow color. Nothing in the immediate vicinity was as bright and noble looking as The Chief. I was reminded of one very foggy visit to the Yaquina Head lighthouse on the central Oregon coast. It was so foggy that day that we could barely see the lighthouse, even up close, but its light shined brightly and was visible miles away! So too, ‘Chief Joseph’ was a bright light in my dark and foggy garden, lighting my way, and guiding me to the next bend in the path.

Conifer Lover

Foggy garden

Back in December, when the days were nearing their shortest of the year, we were experiencing a wave of dark, foggy, drizzly weather that made the days seem even shorter. One morning it was more challenging than normal to motivate myself to get the old joints moving and rise out of bed. It was one of those mornings when I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and remain in the pleasant land of my dream world. But, thanks to my lovely wife, I found myself without any blankets and her gentle words of encouragement.

“You better get up or you’re going to be late for your meeting!”

I was running a little late and yet it was still dark outside. I dragged myself out of bed and I was heading straight to my morning tea when I was distracted by my curiosity of what was happening weather-wise, so I drifted over to our large family room window and pulled the curtains open.

Yup, dark and dreary – must have hot tea.

The foggy conifer garden
The foggy conifer garden

As my wife and I sat enjoying our toast and tea, the sun (such that it was) began to give some light to the garden. It was one of those days when the fog is so thick that it collects on every branch, twig and bit of evergreen foliage causing dewy droplets to delicately hang before they would, drip, drip, drop. As the daylight became brighter (which, believe me, is a relative term here) I became encouraged by how beautiful the garden appeared in the fog.

I looked over at my wife, and she seemed to be noticing the same thing.

“We have such a beautiful garden; I can’t imagine what we would be looking at right now if it wasn’t full of your conifers.”

She was right. Our garden full of conifers and other evergreen plants were accented with the beautiful silhouettes of Japanese Maples, which in the fog, gave the garden a visual depth that I don’t think either of us had appreciated before. There was something magical about the foggy garden.

Our conifers provided us with an amazing (almost surreal looking) landscape full of interesting textures, forms, colors and contrasts, that in their absence on this foggy morning, I probably would never have opened the curtains at all.

Our conifer garden brings us a tremendous amount of joy all year long, though in just six or eight weeks we will see a new season of spectacular color as the conifers and other exciting plants begin to explode in their springtime glory. In the meantime, we can enjoy all that the conifer garden has to offer in the winter while we sip our morning tea and enjoy the amazing beauty of conifers.

Conifer Lover