In Memory of Clouds

Memory is a strange, fluid, ethereal part of the human mind, and we are constantly reminded memory is flawed, perhaps tragically so, yet we rely upon it, swear that it is true, even as we search for some lost item, convinced it is somewhere it clearly is not, and was not, at least not this time. 

But time too, is something we both worship and ignore, like a god we know that one day will kill us, yet we spend time staring off into space, wondering what to do with it before our death comes to us, when our time is finished. 

Yesterday’s dawn brought me clouds low and fast moving, and clouds above them, two different colors, the contrast exciting for I remember seeing clouds like this when I was a small child. I was in the city pool, watching the clouds, standing in cold water up to my shoulders, amazed at the two layers of atmosphere which both held clouds. We adults tend to forget that children experience life as a series of wonders, the planet and life still alien to them, the colors still a mystery, the names of so many things still unknown, and perhaps unknowable, and there in the cold water of the early summer pool, I had no idea if what I was seeing was common, or rare, or had never happened before.

What I was certain of was school was out. School was prison, it was torture, humiliating, and to have three months of my life free of school was like learning to fly. And there, in the water, a liquid world of weightlessness, and pure pleasure, I looked up at the clouds, more water, and full of delight at being alive. The sharp sense of cold from both the wind and the water, the sight of clouds moving above, the feel of bareness of my feet on the concrete of the pool, and there in that moment, memory formed and stayed forever. 

Or did it? 

But now the pool is gone. Crushed and buried on site, the vacant lot seems tiny in comparison to what I remember, the poles that held the lights are gone, the tanks that cleaned the water are gone, and nothing remains. Children, very young children, have grown up to have children of their own, and they too have kids now, and some of those children whose bare feet paddled them around in the water have been long since dead. Their memories circled the drain of life, like the last time the pool was emptied, and now, nothing remains of those moments of wonder they might have experienced.

Was it ever real? How much has been transmogrified by time and polluted by remembering, and therefore changed in some way, until like a painting touched up too many times, only a template of the original remains, but no one notices. Yet the sight of clouds under clouds, clouds over clouds, scurrying away, different colors, different winds, still delight me. I still feel the cold water, the cold air of early June, the feeling that just above me, out of reach, was something beautiful, wonderful, magical, and transient. It was glorious. It was exhilarating. It was incredible.

It was life. 

Take Care,

Mike 

July

There’s no coolness in the air, even before dawn, and the heaviness in the air is palpable. It’s the heat of the Summer now, that part of the year where there will be no relief in any shape, fashion, or form, outside a house where there is air conditioning. It’s seventy-six degrees as I search the sky for a comet. It’s not there, but the mosquitoes are. I go back inside and contemplate calling in for health reasons; I am totally sick of the heat. 

The drive to work is like commuting into a furnace. The sun rises quickly, and it blasts away hope and the wane clouds defending the sky. These are the bones of clouds, eroded and empty, devoid of any rain, or shade now. They’re the dinosaur bones in the sky, the reminder that any possible reprieve is being dealt with unmercifully, and early. Like a lost man finding a skull in the desert there will be no hope found. There will only be the memory of cool days and nice breezes. The forensic evidence of anything less than July will be hard to collect. I drive straight into the sunrise, and I can feel the heat beginning. 

The men who work outside can feel it coming. Swarms of gnats, harbingers of misery, crowd around faces, searching for salt or moisture, and finding enough of both, are as relentless and enteral as the heat. Stinging flies and mosquitoes are there to remind everyone that July means misery, and there’s more than enough to go around. Everyone can have a second helping, not a problem. 

I wear long sleeves, even in this heat. My arms need the protection from the radiation of the star that is far too close right now. The young men strip down and the older guys cover up. I wear gloves, light cotton things, to cover my hands, and everyone thinks I’m crazy. It’s so incredibly hot. But the extra layer of cloth collects sweat, doles it out slowly, and I am cooler for it. Cooler, being a relative term. There is only suffering, and degrees, no pun intended, of suffering. 

By ten, we know the day will be very long. The nearby woods offer a buffer from a breeze, not real shade. The flies and other pests live there when they are not feasting on our blood. We’ve donated more to the insects than we’ve given to the Red Cross. 

There’s a dead hog in the creek, and it looks managed. It smells even worse. We’re hoping an alligator will drag it away and eat it, but that doesn’t happen today. The stench is as omnipresent as the heat. One of the younger guys recommends we try to burn the corpse, but a forest fire would take off running. He wonders aloud if it would smell like bacon. One of the older men tells him to shut up so the young guy starts talking about smoked ham. HE may be murdered before the end of the day, but that is quite some time away. 

About two it rains for thirty-three seconds. The ground and pavement is wet, and the sun comes out and turns it all into a mist, like the smell of the dead hog, incarnate. The heat was unbearable, but now it’s almost like a poisonous sauna. Breathing has that same feel as drinking water that has been sitting for too long, stagnant and dead. The air feels like it’s contaminated with death and disease. Malaria. 

Sweat oozes from the body like a billion gunshot wounds. The face, neck, chest, and shoulder sends rivulets of seawater down the back and front of the body to form pools, and to dampen clothes. The pig isn’t the only thing that is going to be stinking soon, but no one here cares. We’re all trapped on an island in the sun, and no one is spared. 

Steel becomes too hot to pick up and carry. Concrete radiates heat as if it has an internal generator. Exhaust from machines feels like it might kill. Each and every movement by a machine, and every footstep each man takes, means a little more dust in the air. Boots create small clouds, and those become larger, until there’s a flinty smell, the odor of a mountain’s blood; rock deduced to its smallest visible atoms. 

The dust and sweat mix, slip down inside of clothes to produce a unique irritant. We’re being drawn back into the earth, and it covers us as if we are already being buried alive, somewhat. The gnats persist, the flies dive in and land on a face, and the threat of death means nothing to these winded devils. Welts appear and itch. The sun is along in the sky except for the moisture, and the bugs. It is three in the afternoon and we know sundown is at least six hours away. 

The drove home is straight into the sun, again. The heat is unbearable, even with the AC on. There is no relief at all from the radiation, the skin killing rays, and even sunglasses are impotent. Home means the boots come off, water, and unlimited supply, and cool air from the vents. 

Tomorrow will be just like today, except it is supposed to be hotter. 

Take Care,

Mike