Walking on Clouds

It was early afternoon by the time we got our slowpoke selves out to Fernhill Wetlands. I’m fairly certain there would be more bird action in the early morning, but you take what you can get. It was a dazzling day after weeks (months? years?) of soggy, and a relief to see blue skies again. I’d almost forgotten what that was like. When it’s cold I forget hot, when it’s hot I forget cold. That may be true of emotions too; in sadness I forget what it’s like to be happy. It’s a giddy moment to re-discover happiness after a drought, like when you heal after the flu, and the world is extra flashy.

The road through bright green farmlands and panoramic landscapes were extra lush, the sunlight just right, a many mile long sigh of relief.

The air was still a bit chilly, but I now own a haramaki, a belly warmer, and I feel invincible. It’s a band of cloth – soft wool in my case – that’s worn around the belly and kidneys to keep your body temperature up. A friend told me about it, and I think it just might save me this winter. I put it on after I swam and didn’t get as chilled as usual. How is it that something that goes back to ancient Japanese armor reappears as a miracle just when I need it?

At Fernhill, the water treatment plant-turned-wetlands and nature preserve is dotted with an odd assortment of small machinery that controls the ponds’ flow, jarring the eye a bit. But all that water attracts a variety of birds throughout the seasons. In the afternoon, it’s fairly predictable that we’ll see a lot of ducks and geese and nutria, and usually a few herons and egrets. You never know though, so we keep going back. I’ve been dumbstruck by something every time, and it’s always different.

This time the water was quite high, and because some paths were flooded, we only got a 1 ½ mile walk. We could have done the loop again, but walking with a photographer takes a very long time. On my first visit, the pea soup fog and heavy dew was spectacular. This time we had tremendous billowing piles of clouds, and the bluest skies. My pleasure doubled as it all reflected on the water; perhaps I could climb those water trees, and skip along the water clouds.

Sleepy egrets and skulking herons sat at a distance. Golden crowned sparrows and spotted towhees pecked and hopped among drying grasses at our feet. A birder told us of a kingfisher, but I couldn’t spot him. Scores of nutria, disgusting overgrown rats in my book, ambled calmly along the banks, cooed over by passing children. I trained my eyes up on the birds and clouds, and the reds and yellows of bare branches across the water, my mind a blank. Blue sky mind, white cloud thoughts.

That’s all. A day of clouds and water, no thinking. Sometimes that’s all that’s wanted.

A friend sent me a NYT article about writer Hanif Kureishi, who lost the use of his arms and legs – at least for now, in an accident. Within days he was writing again, and in fact seems unable to stop. Using voice to text – who needs hands these days? – he writes (and tweets) about his situation with exquisite observations about the world around him, small and large, from Italian politics to the distressing medical assaults on his body, and the trauma he is enduring, with humor and pathos. I’ve read his entire substack blog now, wishing I could write like him. I highly recommend it!

“Like many artists, I consider my work not a pastime, not an employment or job, but a form of integration in the world of others.”

Hanif Kureishi

It makes me wonder, will I die writing? It also makes me reconsider my kill-me-now-please perspective about being disabled and dependent on others. To be continued.

I’m also thinking about being back at my songwriting class after a long break. My weekly efforts range from “oh well” to “this one doesn’t suck.” But something drives me to try integrating my love of music and words. Still, how to write a good song remains a mystery. It can be a slog or a joy, but I’m not alone. Nick Cave says songwriting, “is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering.” No small task, clearly.

Kureishi’s writing sparkles with life and death. What else is there? I don’t want an accident to make me more appreciative and alive. I hope to die while writing or singing. I don’t know why, but it seems like the best magic carpet out of here. Similar to Cave, Kureishi says, “With real writing, there is contact between the deepest part of one person, and that of another.” That might be what I’m looking for here. I’ll keep trying. Thanks for reading along!

11 thoughts on “Walking on Clouds

  1. Oh, those clouds! Like stories written on the sky.

    And then such rich reflections! Looks like a wonderful day for a walk with (or without) a camera.

    I think you’re right about a birds preference for dawn. In my experience it seems they enjoy a rather elegant awakening ritual in the early hours, making them easier to hear but not always easier to spot. 

    I’m enjoying reading Kureishi. Such beautiful and profound observations. But what really grabbed me were your own observations about writing and not waiting for an accident to make you more appreciative. Finding Kureishi might be a little like finding a map. I look forward to your thoughts on what you call your “kill me now please” perspective on dependence and disability. Bauby (Diving Bell and the Butterfly) changed mine. Carry on, page warrior. Always a pleasure* 

    Liked by 2 people

      • While I found the movie (The Diving Bell) to be surprisingly well done, the book is what stole my heart. The things I love continue to reinforce my embrace of impermanence, both in my own life and the world at large. It’s like squeezing every drop out of a sponge and then slipping it back into the pool of water from which it came. It serves many a purpose and it is always changing. That’s the way I hope to live. Believing that change is everywhere and nothing lasts, leaves me open to every experience. There are days I love my own company and days when I am made richer through the company of others. Instead of seeing it as an intrusion, I am teaching myself to see it as an expansion. Sometimes the idea that we just get this one life seems overwhelming, but then I relax into all of it and remember that life is the snowflake, not the snowball. 

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the great recommendation on Kureishi. I follow Suleika Jouad, parnter of Jon Batiste, who started a writing community while battling cancer. Fortitude, kindness, insight, inpiration. Xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, clouds. Gorgeous. Funny story: As I anticipated my move back to the PNW from NC, I mourned the loss of clouds. There were so many blue sky days decorated by all kinds of cloud formations in NC, and my mind remembered only solid grey sky in the PNW. I often remember that now, how wrong I was. There are lots of gorgeous cloud formation days here! And I had to chuckle at the “walking with a photographer takes a very long time.” That is why I hike solo, I don’t want to wait for anyone nor make them wait for me. And if someone is on the trail with me, even if we are each doing our own thing, I am aware always of their presence, and my hike changes. A holdover from hiking as a child with my mother, I suppose, and complaining the whole time about her pace. I’m not very adaptive. The belly warmer made me laugh too! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s interesting to me that you only remembered the grey! It’s the same for everyone – oh it’s grey all the time” – but you even lived through it at one time! I like hiking solo too – I love Mary Oliver’s How I Go to the Woods, especially the last line: “If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.” Thanks for being here Gretchen!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nancy,
    Exquisite sky et cloud snaps. So simple in their beauty. Each unique in it’s formation inviting our eyes to notice and mold figurines.
    To die writing or singing…would be a blessing as both are your gifts. My friend, presently in hospice, wishes to be buried under a raspberry bush by the sea; two of her favorites. So, I hope her wish is granted ; a simple request.

    Liked by 1 person

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