Clouds

by jexmas on March 27, 2011

I was coming home on the ferry yesterday and stood on the upper deck watching the clouds. I was trying to understand how they were lit by the late afternoon sun since the sky was scattered with big, puffy white cumulus clouds against a background of streaky and shiny stratus clouds. I remember my father telling me about the different types of clouds when he was a pilot and I was six and I feel glad I still know them all, not as a matter of forcing my memory, but because I can look up at the sky and just know them.

So today, I am looking up and trying to understand the direction of light and how, even though clouds are just water vapor, they vary so much in light and intensity. I watch them and wish I could paint them: the subtle variations in shade, texture and light and soft, barely detectable hints of grey, blue, yellow and red.

That night I went to bed and dreamt about ice, of all things. I dreamt I was skating on ice, maybe even thin ice, and I skated over to a small hole in the surface. Someone who was with me asked me to look into the hole and tell him what I could see. I bent down and looked inside the hole. What I could see opened out into an underground landscape of subtle variations of shades of grey. I tried to talk about what I saw but could not put it into words. I felt in awe of the vastness and, at the same time, ashamed I could not talk about it. I was also aware of the subtle changes in color and detail, in much the same way as I had been looking at the clouds.

I felt I was trying to see into my unconscious mind but all I could see was its frozen surface and texture but not its function. I wished I could paint it, too, or least find a way to express it visually. But what would I be painting but shades of grey: the clouds and the ice, the vapor formed by the earth’s breathing or ice crystals frozen over an old, old landscape?

I wonder what is trapped and preserved through time under the surface of the icy landscape, although I actually do know, at least in principle: ancient tundra, geologic aeons stretching back through time and forgotten in a silent, frozen world. I have not forgotten the events, but I have forgotten the feelings, at least the warm ones and now they are frozen at some time back then, back when I felt them and then had to make them disappear. Feelings are so ephemeral. I think I felt something warm and then, pfft, it disappeared almost at the instant I felt it, snap frozen and quickly lost among all the centuries of frozen feelings preceding it.

These thoughts have another effect. I feel close to the ineffable essence of life on earth. My spirit feels diffuse like vapor and my thoughts are clouds, billowing and drifting, sometimes heavy with moisture and sometimes light and barely there, wafting by on the wind.

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