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  • Brendan McKay

Fog Warning

There is a painting by the artist Winslow Homer called The Fog Warning. The scene portrays a lone fisherman in a wooden skiff with his day's catch, rowing back towards a distant ship before the rapidly encroaching fog overtakes. He's done this many times before, but each time is no easier than the last.

For someone who is not often moved by artwork, the piece pulls deeply at my heartstrings. The tones are an aching reminder of those sorrowful late-season autumn days on the East Coast where weather bends man to its will. The protagonist commands his small vessel through the chop, a rugged resignation across his face that is the hallmark of any New Englander with a Protestant upbringing focused on hard work - a job is not done until it's done right, no matter how daunting the task and how tired you are. There is a bleak reality to the scene that despite the odds he faces, the fisherman has no choice but to row for home and safety, and to pray that he sees a warm bed that evening. Each time I leave the painting, there is a small part of me that sadly believes our fisherman was making his final trip.

I was fortunate enough to see Homer's painting as a young child at the Hartford Atheneum in Connecticut, and The Fog Warning is forever seared deep into the recesses of my mind. Which is why whenever the dense summer fog envelopes the hillsides of Malibu, I get particularly melancholic.

The stakes are lower during these morning drives, piloting the aircooled six through the winding roads. No one's life is on the line, and if it is, I think all the motorists out there would not-so-kindly suggest you perhaps re-evaluate what you're doing (looking at you Prius driving about sans-headlights...). There is an ethereal ominousness to it all, and it's jarring how quickly things go from "fine" to "I literally can't see more than 20 feet ahead". The damp, socked-in air deadens directional sound, and it's difficult to tell exactly where anything is - I was amazed that more than once, I could've sworn a car was right behind me only to pull over and have no one pass me by. Those lonely moments on the roadside, adrift in the mist, are small windows into Homer's world in that painting.

Take heed next time you're up in the hills and the fog starts to lift off the ocean, dear fishermen. The going may be slower than hoped, but enjoy the ride and make sure there are many more trips ahead.

- b.g.m.

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