Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's Clouds Illusions I Recall

The last week has brought a lot of beautiful cloud formations. Which seems appropriate as it's felt like my head has been full of clouds as well lately. Or perhaps cobwebs, a seasonal touch. Or fog, one of the lovely symptoms of menopause. Or maybe the clouds outside really were creating the clouds inside, some sort of sympathetic high pressure/barometer thing.

I spied these wispy pulls of cotton candy driving home from the the market and coffee several nights ago. They were only there for a few minutes, by the time I got home they were gone.

Already late for a dinner date with my friend Shelly, I still couldn't resist pulling over to snap this gorgeous formation. Click to enlarge it to better see how hard it is to tell where the mountain ranges leave off and the clouds begin, the cloud bank seems so substantial.

While I was taking photos here, a covey of California Quail rain behind a small dirt pile a few yards away, posting sentries who bobbed their heads and kept watch until I was safely back in my car.

We drove home from Reno on Sunday through a series of storm cells. We passed under every type of cloud one could imagine from the fringes, on deep into the heart, and back out of the storm on the other side. For a long time we passed these storm ships sailing majestically into the fray. The sky darkened, the clouds filled more and more of the sky, sunk heavier and lower above us until, without warning, water fell not as rain, but as if in a waterfall pouring from a jagged rip in the storm. It hit with force enough to shake the car, the windshield wipers thrashing ineffectively and blind. We passed through, barely able to see the road and then just as suddenly as it began, the water stopped and the windshield wipers were beating furiously against nothing but dry glass.

The storm wasn't moving as fast as us but it did eventually follow us home and this is what we got - about a half hour of spotty downpour surrounded by sun. If you turned and looked down the street the other direction at this same moment, the sky was bright blue with rainbows dancing across it. Unfortunately it also has all sorts of aerials, telephone lines, poles, and rooftops chopping the view into bits and pieces, so I didn't get a very good photo of of it.

When the storm cleared, it seemed as if the storm inside my head had also spent itself, gone to brew in locations and psyches unknown. All I know is that for weeks I've stared at the boxes that have turned my living room into a warehouse with feelings of dread and complete terror at the thought of deciding where to begin. The day after the storm I walked out into the living room, looked at the clutter and thought to myself - This is it? Just these few boxes and piles? That's ALL? What in the world was all the fuss about?

And I started in on sorting books and discovered I had no trouble whatsoever deciding what to keep and what to toss. All the emotional stickiness of the decisionmaking had dissipated with the storm. Or at least 95% of it. I love the feeling of a fresh new start after a storm. The dust washed away. The pugent scents of green, growing things filling the air. Well, it feels that way in my head after a storm too.

Of course, life never pauses long in any given mode. The clouds disappeared and left a mountain sky empty of everything but blue and the occasional hawk. Abhoring a vacuum, a strong hot wind roared in and midday yesterday two things happened simultaneously. I smelled woodsmoke and a dozen fire trucks and other emergency vehicles went screaming by my house as fast as any I've ever seen. A grass fire had broken out in a heavily populated valley just a few miles away.

It tooked like they'd gotten the fire out, the white tower of smoke disappeared and fire trucks started driving back the way they'd come, some of them in as much of a hurry as they'd been on the way to the fire. I kept sorting books but eventually the smell of something burning returned. I stepped outside to discover more smoke, this time taller, darker, heavier, no longer just a cloud on the horizon, but a huge black river of smoke that rose up in the west, filled half the sky, flowed up and over the the edge of town, and disappeared past the mountains to the east.

In the early evening I dropped William off at football practice, ran a few errands and then, almost time to pick William back up, stopped at a local restaurant for a tostada and the company of a new book. Someone clued me in that the new smoke was from another fire, this one about twenty/thirty miles away from town as the crow flies. I came back out outside about a half hour later confused to find it snowing. Hot "snowflakes" of ash fell from the sky, quiet and surreal. So thick I had to use my windshield wipers to clear my windows before I could drive.

Football practice was still going strong when I arrived to pick William up, so I walked out to the bleachers to sit, wait, read. The sun set and the wind died down. The temperature dropped from furnaced wind to damp, quiet and chilled. "Snow" continued to fall onto the pages of my book so every three or four sentences in I had to blow it away. While I sat there the sunset turned the smoke bank a spectral yellow followed by a woodfire orange and eventually an ember red before the night swallowed it up in black. Doesn't it look like a face to you here? Two skeletal eyes and a mouth just starting to open, considering the possibility of swooping down and snapping off a few stadium lights?

When it got too dark to see, I followed the team back to the gym. I sat in on the grass, turned so a big spotlight perched above a nearby walkway illuminated my pages. More light spilled from the open door of the weight training room, as did loud, heavy music and the shouts and laughter of young men, pumped up and overflowing with the strength of their youth. I sat in the dark outside reading about walking the ancient streets of Paris. Occasionally one or two or six players wandered out on their way to the parking lot. The spotlight pulled their shadows from them and splashed them stretched and grotesque across the wall of the gym so that it appeared as if a trail of ogres and gargoyles were marching along in the grass behind me. Eventually one of the monstrous shadows stepped out of line before me and settled into the shape of William. I closed my book, stood up and we went home.

Last night the smell of smoke permeated everything. It's hard to sleep when part of your brain keeps poking at you, insisting "Wake up! Something is on fire!" Today the wind has picked up again, bad for the fire but clearing the air for us, the smoke has shifted to the southeast and is now blanketing the Sierras, hiding them from view. The surreal atmosphere has lifted a bit, at least for now, but I'm happy my clarity of mind remains, so I'm off to tackle more boxes of books.

On Laume's Studio I've post a few thoughts on perfection. I was originally going to write about it here but for some reason today it seemed more suited for over there where I tend to put anything about art, creativity, and design. I was going to put the cloud pics there, but apparently they wanted to gather here.


Anonymous Deirdre said...

So how did you make out? I hope you got rid of lots and took FINISH photos! Share!
:-D eirdre

8:33 AM  

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