THE THRILL OF CLOUDS

The strands of tropical storm Alberto raced around the sky like the skirts of twirling Sufi dancers. Overhead, charcoal-colored clouds close to the ground sprinted by with breathtaking speed. Above them, lighter gray shapes rolled by more slowly. Occasionally there were breaks in both that exposed the blue sky high above delicately laced with wispy, seemingly-unmoving dots of white.

I watched it all from a comfy chair in a sheltered niche in my courtyard where the warm, humid tropical wind was flinging about the fronds of my pygmy palm. As I sipped my morning tea, I found it all so dramatic and thrilling that I had trouble just being with such wild energy. So I tried to capture it on video. Soon I gave up, knowing I could not include the whole panorama: the sensation of the wet tropical air, the hawks playing in the currents under the clouds, nor the connection I felt with the little brown lizard sitting quietly on the bricks with his head up, also looking at the sky.

Relaxing back on the soft cushions of my swivel rocking chair, I surrendered to the exciting intensity of the morning. I could imagine myself one of those birds with unflapping wings gliding and wheeling effortlessly above.

Eventually, the call of breakfast brought me back to earth. I watched my egg boil and marveled at the miraculous nature of water. It cooks my food and freezes to preserve it. Amazing.

My stomach satiated, I decided to trim my dwarf bougainvillea in the little garden area. As I had learned, plants grow in warm, humid Florida like nothing I had ever seen in the northeast. Just as I got hot and sweaty snipping away at the stems, the clouds graciously cooled me down with light sprinkles of gentle rain. But, when they decided I’d had enough, they unleashed a tropical downpour that sent me scurrying inside. I was done anyway.

After I dried off, nature upped her game with an impressive thunderstorm, so I tucked into an episode of Stranger Things—which I thought best to do during daytime to ward off weird dreams at night.  Accompanied by the rumble of thunder and torrential rain on the roof, a young girl floated in salt water on my computer screen. Somehow that water enabled her to slip into a terrifying world of monsters. It mercifully ended along with the storm outside.

The sun came out. I went for a swim in my salt water pool. Happily, I was not suddenly transported to a dark world of slimy stuff. Instead, above me, in a sky of richer blue than I ever remember seeing, mountainous forms of puffy white floated by serenely. I think I heard a hint of harp music from angels lolling about on top of them. I swam for an hour in the miraculous element that wonderfully enables me to defy gravity. Amazing!

That evening, I ventured to the beach at sunset. It was obvious that Alberto, out beyond the horizon, was churning up the usually calm Gulf into an imitation of Atlantic rough seas. The booming sound and sight of crashing waves on the shore was exhilarating.

A gangly, pre-teen black boy caught my eye. Sitting in the water’s edge, he was wearing clothes rather than a bathing suit, but he didn’t seem to care. He had not reached the age of self-consciousness. At first the boy let the water wash over him just a little. Then he jumped up and walked further into the surf where a breaking wave knocked him down. He loved it. I worried a bit that he would get caught in undertow, but his big strong father was standing nearby keeping a close eye on him.

It seemed as if the energy of the sea increased the boy’s own high spirits. He began running along the sand as if unable to contain his bliss. He did flips. He tumbled and rolled in the water and laughed when a wave crashed on top of him. He was like a young puppy scampering wildly just for the sheer pleasure of it and need to move. His joy was contagious. I laughed with him.

Ah, water! Yes, it can do fearsome damage. Too much or too little is not a good thing, but it serves us in so many miraculous ways. What a blessing. I know I will take it for granted again, but just for this Walt Whitmanesque moment, I celebrate it. Amazing!