Essays from an Adventure, Part 4: Reverie

Submitted by Mary on Wed, 04/04/2018 - 01:15

For as long as I can remember, I have been captivated by clouds. No doubt this love was greatly enhanced by the fact that I grew up in the American Midwest, where some of the most spectacular cloud formations in the world are the daily norm. Hours upon hours of my childhood and teen years were devoted to lying on the ground or sitting on a high vantage point, watching everything from cotton puffs to monstrous storm cells move overhead. Springtime is the best for cloud-watching—warm afternoons give birth to towering columns of fluffy white that grow and grow like lumpy stalagmites until they reach the barrier of the atmosphere’s outer layers and are forced to expand outwards, creating the well-known anvil shape as darkness falls.
Before dark, however, in the long, fragrant twilights of spring, those clouds create the most dramatic and enchanting landscapes that exist anywhere in the world. I cannot estimate how many hours of my life I have spent gazing up at those intricate terrains, ever-changing, always different, painted in the early evening’s faint and deepening shades of ivory, butter, rose, and lavender. I spun magical story ideas about fairies, unicorns, pegasi, sky people, and cloud kingdoms, all in the same soft color palette of the evening cloudbanks. I found a soothing instrumental version of the song “Fields of Gold” and it became the soundtrack for my cloud imaginings. I dreamed of exploring the clouds, of walking across their surfaces, climbing their cliffs, investigating the pockets and caves that could conceal anything—anything!
The jet climbed through the rain and I pointlessly counted seconds, knowing I was nowhere near accurate but at least wanting to assure myself that we were past ninety.
Suddenly I could see flickers of light. The density of the clouds gave way to thinner and thinner mist as the light grew brighter. And then, like a submarine breaking the surface of the water, we broke through to the top of the clouds!
There were still a few flickers as we passed through peaks and pinnacles, but above it all was a brilliant sunshine that blinded me for several seconds, burning ghostly white images of dazzling, ethereal landscapes and formations onto the backs of my eyelids.
I pressed even closer to the window, blinking, squinting, willing my eyes to adjust faster. I must have looked like a little kid at the zoo to anyone who saw me, but I didn’t give it a single thought, because outside my window was the world of my dreams.
A steep, roiling mountainside ran down into a rippled valley that ran away to the south and faded into shadow. A vast plain was broken by a scattering of spindly towers. The plain plunged, for no apparent reason, into a deep canyon crowded with formations that looked like roses. On the other side of the canyon the plain returned. There were mountains in the distance, and nearer formations that I couldn’t associate with anything earthly. I could see caverns in those formations—that must be where the monsters lived, the cloud creatures you had to beware of if you dared to venture out on a journey across the plains. There was a rift in the clouds, winding along like a narrow river; you’d have to be careful there, I decided. Stray too close and you could fall through to Earth. The plain sloped up to a higher plateau, on the edge of which sat a remarkably square pile of cloud—a cloud fortress! It overlooked the entire plain, and travelers on the plain would be able to see it and know that there was safety.
I began spinning stories in my head: creating monsters to inhabit the cloud world, knights on their sky horses, lords of the cloud castles, the ladies and maidens who lived there, dangerous journeys across wildernesses where no fortresses existed to offer safety, exiles to the Earth below, all in glorious colors.
It seemed like only a few minutes had passed, when a soft "dong" sounded and the captain’s voice announced that we were beginning our descent into Chicago.

Author's age when written


I loved the peaceful excitement that pervaded this section. Your descriptions were lovely and drew me in like magic. I especially liked the ending, though, how you brought us gently down to earth. Looking forward to more!