The Haar

Four miles after crossing the Scottish border on Friday, and I went through fairly thick fog. This seemed to confirm my previously held belief that Scotland was a drizzly, damp place, all year round. Yet it was also present in East Lothian as well Fife and Angus. When driving over the Forth, I could not see the top of the Queensferry Crossing, which was somewhat disconcerting. When I arrived at Aberdeenshire it was still there. Was the whole of Scotland covered in thick fog?

In fact, it is a phenomenon well known to the nation’s east coast as the Haar, as well as to Northumbrians and coastal Yorkshire, where it is called sea fret. It often occurs during spring and summer when warm, moist air moves over the cold North Sea and condenses and returns inland as fog, often with the tide. Though our cottage was 2-3 miles from the beach, the Haar would suddenly appear, dimming the sun, greying the sky and rendering invisible the landscape. The temperature falls and a ghostly mist can be observed blowing through the garden or past the windows. Some may recall the 1980 horror film The Fog, and Netflix’s current Stephen King inspired feature The Mist. Both are stories of supernaturally inspired fogs descending on some hapless town, upon which vengeance is sought. Thankfully, no long-dead highlanders jumped out of that cloud to kill we visiting English. Though it warranted the wearing of jumpers and coats, it added to the locality’s peculiar charm. Acts 13:11, speaking of Elymas, reads:

And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.

Mist and fog are usually metaphors for ignorance, obscuring our view and retarding our knowledge. James uses mist as a picture of life’s transience, but here it is something which God imposes. Throughout our earthly lives, our sovereign God allows the mists of unknowing to cloud our vision and understanding. We do not know the days of our deaths, the periods of impending difficulty, or anything else that lies ahead. Rather, we must trust our God who certainly does know the future. Similarly, when the fog descends, the sun still shines. Though God allows trials to come, His love remains as real as ever.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.