My elderly mother-in-law suffers from a kind of memory loss that undoes her sense of time. Minutes feel like hours to her, hours like days. So, whenever my husband and I go out of town for a while, we always call her every few days to remind her what day it is, and when exactly we'll be back.
On one such trip we went to Mexico for a week, and, one day drove for hours on some high mountain roads. There were beautiful villages, soft green cow pastures, roadside waterfalls.
At one point we pulled over to get out and take in a breathtaking view: below us were the peaks of mountains, and, in the ravines and canyons below the peaks, vast masses of clouds trailed far out of the eastern horizon.
After a few snapshots, we got back in and headed down the road - only to find that we had no choice but to drive directly into those clouds, into the thickest, scariest fog we had ever seen.
The road had already been dangerous, but now was much more so, and my husband drove very tensely, stiffly, for what seemed like forever, never faster than four or five miles an hour.
It was awful to imagine some confident bus driver roaring down on us from behind, his front bumper shooting us off the road into space. Walking, we kept saying, would be faster and safer.
After a while we saw a sign that read Zona de Niebla, and we understood why we weren't passing through villages anymore. No one lived there. It was foggy all the time.
At last we broke out of the fog, to be greeted by patches of sunshine, villagers, orchards full of brilliant tangerines.
A few days later, back home, we told friends the story, but it was strange how we couldn't agree about the time involved. Had we ended up crawling through that fog for four hours? Two hours? Half an hour? Impossible to decide, only that it had also been in a way a zone of emptiness, of timelessness.
My mother-in-law seemed more miffed than pleased to see us again. In her mind, despite the frequent phone calls, a week had stretched into endless absence. Did you settle down in Mexico? she asked. Did you decide to live there forever?