As I write, it is Wednesday last week, and day four of the dense fog. It has not been what we call “flyable” since Saturday the 20th.

Fog here interferes with everything — the mail, the groceries, the beer, what you’re going to do if you get hurt, and the best-laid plans of any flying islander or vacationer. Thankfully, there happened to be one of our rare state ferries scheduled during the fog spell, so some people could get here, but there was no daily mail and definitely no spontaneous travel. A load of Food Pantry groceries from AIO was stuck waiting for passage across, until somebody with plans to take the ferry and sufficient room in his pickup truck was located. Freight was undoubtedly backed up at Penobscot Island Air, likely piled to the moon — not that we could see the moon — because these days there is more mail order than ever, for obvious reasons. Even without coronavirus, islanders order stuff like you wouldn’t believe.

I spent quality time marching up and down the island on each of those murky days, enjoying the privilege of exercise in these strange times, including the pleasant misdemeanor of a walk on the airstrip. Normally I am strident, and quite annoying, in preaching to tourists that they’d jolly well better stay the hell off the runway. There would be no airplanes needing me out of the way in this white-out; of that I was certain. There is no instrument landing system here.

In fog this thick, one walks alone. There are plenty of people on the island now — it is summer, even here — but the field of vision becomes so limited that a solitary walker could imagine Matinicus as deserted as in February. People and vehicles would appear, I might say hello to some neighbor out pulling weeds, or pat a dog, and then be totally alone again. At one point you could see about 15 feet. No view beyond the next clump of pink wild roses; no sound of a package-laden Cessna overhead as is common on the clear days. “By the looks of his landing, that must be Ketchikan Mike!” The roses, I should add, smell amazing right now.

When the breeze comes from the south it is a wet direction. We know the fog cannot leave us until the wind changes. Wind direction is often enough to give any mariner or weather nerd a reasonably accurate forecast. This was not patchy fog, the stuff that comes and goes, loitering just offshore, and is merely normal on summer days in the bay, causing islanders awaiting the word on grocery deliveries to hover around their telephones pacing the floor, or calling the air service every 20 minutes nervous as a cat (I’ve been guilty of that). This particular fog bank, according to the satellite image, has whitewashed everything from Bangor to Halifax and filled the Gulf of Maine like a soup bowl.

Meteorologist Keith Carson, chatting with the anchor desk on the noontime weather, made a reference to Stephen King’s story “The Mist,” in which an extremely thick Maine fog conceals bloodthirsty monsters. A quick check of the synopsis of this tale described a revolting menagerie of killers, twisted paranoia, ugly ways to die, and what sounds like the breakdown of Western civilization inside the Bridgton IGA store. Nope; not for me. Not going there.

The densest fog I can remember experiencing was in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1983 when I was a student at the University of Maine at Orono and on the Woodsman Team. A roving gang of forestry majors (and I) were there for one of those contest/demo/lost arts things we did. That’s the closest I ever got to college sports, and I’m fairly good on a two-man crosscut saw, or was back in the day. Anyway, I saw nothing whatsoever of Fredericton in the pea soup, and to this day do not know what the university we visited looks like.

A few years ago I was obligated to learn the technical names for different types of fog for an exam: radiation fog, advection fog, upslope fog, etc. Digging into the science, you get to use cool words like “adiabatic.” I had friends who lived in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge at the time, and visiting them it was all about the “marine layer,” a lyrical name for an unpoetic gray blob, a murk, “thicker,” said Albert Bunker, “than boiled owl sh*t.”

Last Thursday morning dawned foggy for the fifth day, but sometime after 7 a.m. I heard Roger the pilot over one of the islands, reporting to “Ops” (operations, meaning the dispatcher back in Owls Head) that, “I can’t see it yet, but it looks like it might be do-able by around 8:30.” And, indeed, it was.