First Day of Fall

I live on the coast in southern Maine where ocean waters still warm from summer have a big impact the weather. As New England boaters know too well, the Maine coast is notorious for fog in late August and in September. When cooler fall air meets warm water, you’ve got fog.

There are some terrific literary quotes about fog. Here are a few:

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make a whole trip that way. (EL Doctorow)

The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over the harbor and city on silent haunches, and then moves on. (Carl Sandburg)

Exploratory research is really like working in a fog. You don’t know where you’re going. You’re just groping. Then people learn about it afterward and think how straightforward it was. (Francis Crick)

The coldest summer I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco. (Mark Twain)

Fog engulfs Mara in Demon Spirit, Devil Sea as it did in Cold Blood, Hot Sea. Chapter One of Demon Spirit begins with Mara desperately trying to keep her run-away, rudderless kayak from sweeping her into the cold, deep Pacific Ocean off the Haida Gwaii archipelago. As if fighting the riptide were not enough, fog overtakes her:

Back at the Maine Oceanographic Institute, I’d studied Haida Gwaii’s currents. Longer than wide, Augustine Island protected Kinuk’s inner bay from the Pacific’s ravages. The outer bay was a very different story. A paddler dumb enough to venture out there’d be trapped in current that raced past the island’s tip.

If dumb paddler me zipped past Augustine, the jig would be up. The big ocean’s crashing waves twice the length of my boat, icy water, sharks—I’d be at the mercy of all of it.

What suddenly lay ahead erased all thoughts of currents and sharks. I squinted, squeezed my eyes shut, popped them open. The Maine kayaker’s nightmare.


The clammy murk smothered me in an instant. Splashing waves, sky, light. Vanished. Replaced by a wet, woolly gray. My heart beat fast against layers of fleece, paddling jacket, and life vest. Breathing fast and hard, I swiveled and squinted in every direction. The vapor was so dense there was no telling where miasma ended and sea began. Waves booming against rocks said the island was tantalizingly close, but dead blind in fog, I couldn’t see a thing.

The scientist in me kicked in. Water and air warmed by July’s sun met frigid open-ocean. That meant fog. But for once, science couldn’t help me at all.

The kayak raced on through the gloom. Too soon, the booms were muted. I’d just slipped past my refuge. My fate was certain—I would drift out onto vast ocean in a seventeen by two foot boat.

Besides fog, in Demon Spirit Mara deals—among other things—with vanishing visions, hot pools that inexplicably drain, the Haida people’s claim that Raven’s spirit watches over them, a bear attack, and a (genuine) dispute between the U.N. and the Haida Nation. The book will be published in spring/early summer in time for summer reading.