"A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed... But the sky knows the reasons and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons."
We had clouds today. Not this morning, though, when we strolled through the coolest of August breezes, which carried with it the electric scent of wild grass, a sweet top-note of mint infused with the ripeness of all the leaves in all the trees and a bass note of soil, heavy and brown, enriched by a shock of lightning and the thunder which would roll over us later in the day. The air's perfume was nearly overpowering at times, but because the breeze was gentle, the sun not yet too bright and the park still silent around us, we were comfortable and didn't mind the heaviness of the fragrance. The sky was shockingly blue above the edges of the world and seemed to swallow the color of the trees poking into it like bony fingers as well as the hills and mountains which want so much more than to be dark shadows at her base. Only the plains to the east seemed at peace with the sky, and where they met––perhaps fifty miles out––they had reached an agreement, melting one into the other with no clear line of demarcation.
But the clouds, the morning clouds which grew discontent in being so small and too few in number, became restless and as the morning grew warm and passed into afternoon, they surrendered their gentle sheep-backed shapes and flocked together into one enormous wool blanket which rubbed against both ends of the horizon at once. The storm was not long and eventually, by the time Duncan and I ventured out for our evening stroll, the air had warmed again, and only the last of the die-hards remained, curling over the mountains and trying their best to obscure the last of the day's sun. But they were beautiful things and while Duncan ambled about, dragging his leash behind him, I stretched out on the grass, not caring that my shirt and shorts or the backs of my legs grew damp, and watched them do the things clouds do, their silent and slow courting ballet across the heavens.
How simple, it would seem, to be a cloud, and how easy to presume their task is the easiest of all, going where the winds tell them to go, obeying the commands of the seasons, floating far above and out of harms way, watching the world do what the world does. But clouds are poets, not content to be merely what they seem. My clouds, the clouds which piled up and around each other like European islands, had so many tasks they performed all at once that I could only smile and marvel at them while Duncan rolled nearby, oblivious to their presence. They made the shape of an eye whose line of sight glowed fierce and golden all around, and at the same moment they kicked out a leg, pudgy and newly born with the sole of a baby's foot joined at its end, the toes curling and fat at their tips. Their shadows ran down across the hillside, and galloped through the fields before passing over the street and into the golf course on the other side. They swirled and collided like casual lovers, not rebounding but joining, becoming one before passing away, changed but fulfilled and bloated in their middles, tentative and lingering along their edges, yearning for a touch they will never know. They colored the sky gray and gold and white all at once, never losing time with the breeze on which they floated, humming a tune only the birds and perhaps the dogs can recognize.
And then as the sun drifted down low, seeking as she always does the ocean far away, they were gone, leaving the sky as empty as a bed stripped of its linens, even the pillows swept away onto the floor below.
Where do they go when they slip away and who is there to greet them on the other side of the horizon when they arrive?