Friends back in Australia seem to have the impression that I'm reveling in summer during this sojourn in Oregon.
Yes, it was over 100 F (near 40 C) in Portland last week, but 60 miles away on the Oregon coast, on the great roadless headland that separates Cannon Beach and Seaside, it was about 55 F (13 C). As I climbed up the north side of the headland, I was in a microclimate of rain; no rain fell from the clouds, but every gust of breeze launched a heavy splattering from the mist-sodden canopy.
I took my bright yellow raincoat and soon had it zipped tight with the cord pulling it close around my face. At one point on the trail I came around a corner to see four young people loitering in indecision, all in shorts and t-shirts and flip-flop sandals, three girls looking at the one guy as though he'd led them into this shivering pass. "Good god," I said, not breaking my stride, "you're dressed for August!"
It's a common pattern in Northern California: hot inland air collides with the ocean and kicks up a wall of dense fog right along the beach. It's less common in Oregon, but it's happening more as Portland's summers get hotter. The fog is different, too. San Francisco fog can feel, paradoxically, rather dry -- more chalky than misty -- especially on wide treeless streets and open heathlands. Perhaps it's an effect of the landscape there: fewer trees, so room for the white sky to press flat against the ground. In the rainforest, the trees give the fog structure; they create a series of rooms where the mist feels like an intimate detail, rather than the vertical edict of an all-powerful sky.
It's deeply satisfying to take superficially bleak photos in a place that feels so much like home, a place where even images of death assure me that all's well.