The Magic of Mists

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

On Wednesday morning I reached Trou-O-Cerfs at about 5.30 am for my morning walk. There was already a fine mist covering the hill, and it became a little more dense as I progressed and picked up speed – but at a slower rate than usual, because I wanted to enjoy the experience of walking through it. As was the case with several friends, who too wowed at the splendour that unfolded in front of their eyes as they made their way round the crater.

The visibility was about 50 feet, and the blurred silhouettes of the trees and shrubs became slightly less so as I approached them, but they looked as enchanting as they did from a distance, because they were still surrounded in a haze. After all the mist was still hanging about, it’s only the perspective that was changing. The morning was warm, though, and rather sultry, with an uneasy heaviness in the air, making one feel a wee bit lethargic. Luckily a little later the dry mist became wet, and there was the tingling feel of a thin spray on the face and arms. The temperature cooled down a notch, and the freshness was most welcome. The sun had not risen, and the effect lasted for a while.

A mist on cool mornings, and evenings too for that matter, is a different experience altogether. On Sunday last a private clinic had organized its end of year party at the Jet Ranch which is situated in the Mare-aux-Vacoas/Mare Longue area. As it is, it had been a rainy Sunday, and the sky had been overcast most of the day. It had cooled down quite a bit too by the evening, and it was already misty as we drove past the lake and through the gate. There was a small zone of diffuse yellow surrounding the lights at the top of the poles lining the entrance road towards the service area which soon came into view. Beyond it the mist melted into the forbidding darkness, and it was reassuring to step into the building and be greeted warmly.

The changing landscape of nature, whether everyday or through the seasons, gives us opportunities of visual pleasure and an enjoyment that transcends the purely aesthetic to touch deeper chords within. Poets, who are magicians of words, are able to capture and immortalize the rhythms, colours and moods of nature. The English poet John Keats started his Ode to Autumn with the lines:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…

In a letter written to a friend in September, 1819, he explained what led him to write the poem: ‘How beautiful the season is now, how fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather … Dian skies … I never liked stubble-fields so much as now … Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm … in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.’ And how!

En passant, one may note that Keats graduated as a medical doctor, but never practised medicine, and sadly he died at the young age of 25, probably of pulmonary tuberculosis. But he has left a vast legacy of poetry despite his short life, and the sensitivity and closeness to nature comes through very clearly. He was likely a dedicated walker too. And walking affords time for contemplation and introspection.

An enduring scene in my mind is that from the film Shakespearewallah. Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendall, who played in it, are seen walking down a hill in Darjeeling at dusk, and the romanticism of the moment is enhanced by the mist in which they are enveloped. I had the chance of enjoying the Darjeeling hills similarly dressed up when I was there long years ago, upon postponement of my exams in November 1967. I still shudder when I remember the cold!

Having lived in Curepipe most of my life, at one point I started grumbling about the winter season with its practically incessant rain, but then things seem to have changed. Perhaps the winters have somewhat mellowed in Curepipe. There’s longer spells of dry days, and in the past few years I recall some very memorable mornings after the rains have fallen during the night, with Trou-O-Cerfs covered in a thick mist. What delight to open one’s pores to its refreshing coolness even as one takes in lungfuls of the same coolnesss inhaled directly through the mouth.

The magic begins when the light from the rising sun starts to spread, turning the white sheet into a shining diaphanous veil streaked with shafts of the sun’s rays. Such real fairytale pictures, in all their variations, become forever etched in one’s memory. As I write I can even now visualize the many spectacles, for truly that’s what they are, no less, as grand as the nature of which they are the part and the whole in its myriad manifestations. These include the spiderweb thin dew covering the leaves and the grass, and the dewdrops about to tip-tip from the sharp pointed ends of the leaves – all sights to behold, and store not in the RAM but in the hard disc!

There are so many other sweet memories of mist that are imprinted forever in my being – for they are not mere psychophysical impressions but living moments associated with loved near and dear ones. Like walking on the Golden Gate Bridge with my son some months ago, meeting the cloud that streamed towards us and darkening the sunny morning that awaited us as we emerged from it, and faced the cold wind that slowed our pace. And yet it was summer there!

Lodi gardens in New Delhi, on so many winter mornings that I have lost count. I would walk from Niti Bagh and make my way past Khan market, my breath in curls as it cooled down in the air outside the body. Reaching Lodi gardens, with the old monuments there looking forlorn, only too clearly belonging to another era, silhouetted in the envelope of fog, and taking several rounds until it is time to go out and have fresh fruit juice from the vendor outside the gate.

Another unforgettable sight, that of the spray shooting upwards from close to the edge of the cliff, like inverted rain, of the Victoria waterfalls to a height of over 1,300 ft (and sometimes even twice as high), and visible from up to 30 miles away. Seen from a plane, it looked even more awesome as we flew nearer, from the Zambia side. During the rainy season when we were there, in April 1991, however, it was impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face, and the walks along the cliff opposite it were – as they are usually — in a constant shower and shrouded in mist. The rainforest they call it, and we had to borrow umbrellas or plastic overcoats as we went for the walk, otherwise we would have got thoroughly soaked through.

And who can forget the freezingly cold, soaking wet mists and fogs of West Yorkshire which we braved through for all of three and a half long years! They were definitely not of the pleasant sort, and it was best to scurry in and take off the wet boots and heavy clothing – ah, freedom! Sink into the sofa with a glass of Riesling and switch on the TV to laugh one’s belly out at the antiques of Terry and June. Those, and such, were the days, much needed breaks to relieve us from the crazy work schedules of the medical world!

Merry Christmas!

* Published in print edition on 21 December 2012

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