The other day I saw the clouds. I ‘see’ them just about every day, but usually they don’t register. They’re just there, an insignificant part of the landscape. Why should I be concerned with them? I know weather as something to be owned and controlled. I can look at the forecast or check the temperature and plan accordingly. I can take a jacket or scrape my car windows and master the minor inconveniences nature throws my way.
It was not always so.
Once I knew the weather. I knew it because I couldn’t control it. I lived outdoors, and not indoors. I walked to school, and at recess I played outside. I walked home, abandoned my school things and went to play in my back yard, or a friend’s. I felt the seasons change. I knew the sensation of cool grass beneath my feet. I listened to the drone of cicadas buzzing in the trees and the song of crickets in the yard. I caught grasshoppers and knew the tickle of their legs kicking to get away. I dug in the dirt with my hands and held its cold, moist weight. I felt small and anxious beneath vast thunderclouds, green and grey and black. I felt scared when the civil defense sirens whirred to life and sent us to the basement to wait out a tornado. I knew that when the grass grew prickly underneath my feet and the air had that certain chill, fall was coming. I was acquainted with the musty smell of a pile of dead leaves. I knew the cold of winter, the crunch of wet snow beneath my boots, and the sneaking in of spring.
I’ve forgotten all these things. When I was young, I wondered at what I saw. I was curious and alive. I lived in and touched the weather. But now I’m impatient. I know what’s coming next and I want that instead of what’s going on now. It snows and I “really don’t want to go out in that.” But I do anyway. I bundle up, scrape my windows, then jump in my car and crank up the heater, all the while picturing the cup of coffee that will warm my hands at work. I’m too busy scraping and being impatient to actually feel the cold in any meaningful way. And what was it, really, that I was going out into? My car, neatly sealed from the outside air, where I have control over the weather with a little knob? I go for a walk but am too preoccupied with my petty troubles to really notice what’s around me, and too dignified to climb a tree or dig a hole or catch a grasshopper. I’m too busy to lay on the ground and stare at the clouds.
People look for images in the clouds. I always found emotions. Lazy contentedness in the high fluffy clouds of a summer afternoon. Mystery and wonder in low, foggy clouds. Heavy foreboding in stormclouds. Glory in the grey-white puffy masses with pink, purple and orange linings and descending shafts ofÂ light. Coziness in the blanket-like snow clouds. Eerie disorientation in green hail-filled clouds.
I don’t think I can get back what I’ve lost without a radical change of lifestyle. Maybe someday I’ll own a farm.