Amidst the Mists

Kate Flora: My sister Sara used to love this tongue-twister of a poem, and recited it often enough that it immediately came to mind when I thought I would blog about fog and mists and weather in mysteries:

 “Amidst the mists and coldest frosts, 
With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts, 
He thrusts his fist against the posts 
And still insists he sees the ghosts.”

 Strangely (because writers love to do research) when I began prepping for the blog byScreen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.40.36 AM looking up “Autumn Mists” it turned out that it is a Benjamin Moore paint color, and I got pages of decorating ideas. It’s a nice color, for sure, if you like pale green, but no thanks. If I have a couch, a chair, a rug, and a lamp, I’m done. Oh, and lots of bookcases. No. Not paint. I was thinking about these lovely autumn mornings when the mists in the valleys and rising from rivers and fields is so beautiful I wish I could stop and take its picture. Morning mists against autumn leaves or hovering over golden corn or pumpkins is delightful. So is a herd of black cows rising out of a ghostly white field.

Sadly, a cell phone is not much good at capturing the subtle magic of morning mist. And far too often, I spot images that would make perfect photos when I’m driving, and I’m past before I could ever get my phone out. Besides, we’re not supposed to hold phones while driving.

But I was thinking about fog and mist and haze recently because for days the island was bathed in a deep gray fog that approached and retreated like a reluctant lover or a partner in a dance. It was the kind of fog that leaves your face slicked with wet and distorts sounds and light.

Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.40.06 AMI’ve used fog quite a bit in my books, because fog is very much a part of our Maine environment. When I was writing Led Astray, my fifth Joe Burgess mystery which opens on a foggy day, I quickly realized that Burgess was going to be in fog until he solved the mystery, and that that external fog mimicked the fog of the investigation. Years back, in my first Burgess mystery, Playing God, he is driving to Cape Elizabeth on a winter day when the rising sun illuminates the sea smoke and he’s driving through a golden haze.

A quarter of a century ago, I did my very first panel at the Malice Domestic mystery conference in Bethesda, Maryland. The topic was one that sounded very dull on paper: Using Weather in Our Mysteries. I was terrified because I was a newbie, and doubly so because Charlotte MacLeod was on the panel, a very established writer I greatly admired. Looking back, I can’t remember what we talked about, I was too focused on thinking about what to say about mysteries set in New England. But being in a discussion with writers from all over the country, I became aware of the differences weather makes.

Here in Maine, our characters likely choose what to drive by what works in snow andIMG_0052 mud. That might not be a consideration in parts of California. Our characters also have to think about what to have in the car in case of emergency, including boots, a coat, and gloves as well as scrapers and a snow shovel. Maybe even some kitty litter. Once, I had someone criticize a character for not using a cell phone. Well, I, and many others, live in a place where there barely is cell service, and those black holes are great for creating tension.

As I was doing research on fog, I found a few links you might enjoy:

 Fog, mist, and haze explained

And again:

Seasmoke over Willard Beach

And two versions of someone reading Keat’s poem:

Keats: To Autumn

Or this, which is lovely

Wouldn’t you like this fellow reading you a poem every day?

And don’t forget to enter:

It’s Maine Crime Writers “Where Would You Put the Body?” contest – late summer/early fall edition. How do you enter? Send a photograph of your chosen spot to: with “Where Would You Put the Body?” in the subject line. There will be prizes for First, Second, and Third place–books of course and other Maine goodies. You may enter no more than three photographs, each one entered separately. They must be of Maine places and you must identify the place in your submission. Photos must be the submitter’s original work. Contest will run through the middle of October.

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1 Response to Amidst the Mists

  1. And let us not forget it comes in on little cat feet. Fog vignettes-Me and Bob Gilmore in fog so thick we had to creep at 5 miles an hour back from the Isle of Shoals, sitting in a duck boat in Merrymeeting bay listening to hundreds of ducks race overhead and unable to see anything beyond the bow of the boat. This morning the sky is so dark it looks like it’s scowling at the world.

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