Quote for Today: Richard Preston


Redwoods flourish in fog, but they don’t like salt air. They tend to appear in valleys that are just out of sight of the sea. In their relationship with the sea, redwoods are like cats that long to be stroked but are shy to the touch. The natural range of the coast redwoods begins at a creek in Big Sur that flows down a mountain called Mount Mars. From there, the redwoods run up the California coast in a broken ribbon, continuing to just inside Oregon. Fourteen miles up the Oregon coast, in the valley of the Chetco River, the redwoods stop.

Richard Preston, The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

Image © Theo Crazzolara in Redwood National Park

Rooted in Loneliness: Thoughts on Ray Bradbury’s The Fog Horn

Art, like life, relies on communication. What happens when empathy fails and we are struck by how unintelligible we are? Sometimes it seems that the only thing we can share is loneliness itself.


© John Mavin with CCLicense

One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, “We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I’ll make one. I’ll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life. ––Ray Bradbury, The Fog Horn

Ray Bradbury’s The Fog Horn is a short story which takes place in a remote lighthouse. Simply told, and yet rich in metaphor, this story has mesmerized readers for more than six decades with its eerie tale of a lonely and unknowable creature drawn to the light and the foghorn. If you aren’t familiar with it, or if you would like to read it again, please do so here.

© krembo1 with CCLicense

© krembo1 with CCLicense

A foggy sea, dangerous and wild, shares a border with a rocky coast miles from human habitation, reachable by a long and lonely stretch of highway. Two men work in a lighthouse there: old McDunn, who has experience with the mysteries of the sea, and our narrator, who is fascinated by the workings of the lighthouse and the movement of the ocean. This evening the old man initiates the younger man into the mystery of the lighthouse. There is something out there in the great deep, something alive and otherworldly, something ancient.

Even without analysis, this story pulls at us, reeling us in like the monster itself. What is it that resonates here? We can take flashlights and go out by the coast to look, but you may find yourself staring into your own darkness, looking at a glimmer of reflected light.

© Wayne31r with CCLicense

© Wayne31r with CCLicense

Lighthouses stand on the border between solid ground and the ocean or other large body of water. Borders are places of danger, conflict, exploration and growth. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to suppose that the solid ground symbolizes the conscious and the sea the unconscious. Both are necessary parts of our world that operate in profoundly different ways. One can imagine a full scale storm here would be terrifying, blending together realities designed to coexist but not to mingle. The fog already obscures the boundary between them. In this particularly lonely and mysterious place, humanity has erected a lighthouse, designed to warn of the dangerous rocks that lie between one realm and another and to keep boats from ramming into the shore. No one ever expected it would provoke a response from the sea itself.

McDunn has been on the edge here a very long time, and the mystery of the sea has gotten into his psyche and blood. At first we may think him a bit dotty and superstitious, but as we see and experience the strange creature he speaks of, we realize that he is on to something. Either that, or he has talked us into seeing what he sees. His intuition guides us into belief in things we don’t understand, things that seem impossible. The world is ancient, he tells us, and it is modern man and his consciousness that fail to make sense in the context of time.

Our narrator is one of those modern men, new enough to the lighthouse that he has never experienced a visit from the creature. He enjoys the company of McDunn, who is a “good talker” and tells great stories. There is curiosity here and a scientific mind. Most of the time, weird things happen while this fellow is out, but tonight the creature will manifest itself not only for the believer’s intuition, but for the skeptic’s rationality, sending the roof crashing down upon both of them.

© John Curly with CCLicense

© john curley with CCLicense

This brings us to the lonely monster, surfacing from the depths where human history is unknown and unexperienced. Primal and lonely, it responds to the flashing lights and the maddeningly sorrowful voice of the lighthouse, mistaking the building for another being of its own kind. It too is made of light and voice. Unfortunately, the beast expects too much from a world unequipped to understand and empathize. Tonight it will be disappointed to find that the lighthouse is unable to return its attention. How can it when it isn’t even alive?

Bringing Nature to the City: Urban Fog Art by Fujiko Nakaya

Have you enjoyed the magic of a bank of fog, letting it slip around you as surroundings vanish and reappear? Many who experience fog simply find it inconvenient and dangerous. Like many natural phenomena, it is both beautiful and perilous, especially for travelers.

Fog Forest image © UNIT7 with CCLicense

Foggy Forest, Tokyo, 1992
image © UNIT7 with CCLicense

Environmental installation artist Fujiko Nakaya makes fogscapes, designing and installing complex computerized machinery to create low lying clouds of water vapor. No chemicals are used in the process of creating her scaled down versions of natural fog, leaving the water potable. Nakaya’s works are often installed in downtown areas and truly bring the playful beauty of nature into the urban landscape, where the fog interacts with weather conditions to put on a striking show. A marriage of science and art, Nakaya’s designs have graced cities all over the world, including Tokyo, Osaka, San Francisco, Canberra, Paris, Linz, Toronto and Bilbao. She has also provided fog design for theatrical and musical productions, including dance performances. The video below was released in conjunction with an installation in Taipei, Taiwan, entitled Post Urban Fogscape. 

What a gentle way to bring the awareness of nature to this city, where once rice farmers were at the mercy of the elements. Here are two more fogscapes by Nakaya, which reveal her delightful imagination. Like a true theater artist, she does not flaunt the technology behind her construction, creating a wonderful sense of mystery. Nature itself is theater.

Gisèle Vienne, This is How You Will Disappear image © svennevenn with CCLicense

Gisèle Vienne, This is How You Will Disappear
Kaaitheater, Brussels, Belgium
image © svennevenn with CCLicense

F.O.G. at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain image © Phillip Maiwald with CCLicense

F.O.G. at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
image © Phillip Maiwald with CCLicense

Want more? Click on these links.

Cloud Parking on a rooftop in Linz, Austria. Lovely article from the Daily Mail.

Cloud Forest at Yamaguchi Center for Art and Media, Yamaguchi, Japan.

Fog Bridge, Exploratorium, San Francisco.

Gisèle Vienne, This is How You Will Disappear, avant-garde theatrical trailer.

Quote for Today: Federico García Lorca

There is nothing more poetic and terrible than the skyscrapers’ battle with the heavens that cover them. Snow, rain, and mist highlight, drench, or conceal the vast towers, but those towers, hostile to mystery and blind to any sort of play, shear off the rain’s tresses and shine their three thousand swords through the soft swan of the fog.

–Federico García Lorca, A Poet in New York

© Archigeek with CCLicense

© Archigeek with CCLicense