February 14th, 2013
Get your head out of the clouds is such a poignant and disappointing cliché.
It is so sad that many people find it impossible to let their mind wander and play with the shapes in the sky. I find it appalling that the majority of the people in my life are so aloof when dealing with their imagination.
Every time I look at the clouds I am drawn back to the front room on Bent-Vine Lane. Off the entryway, passed the green and gilded wallpaper, was a room with popcorn ceilings, tan shag carpet, and a piano. The back wall was graced by a china cabinet. Between the window and the piano was a large dining table. On more than one occasion while waiting for my mother to get off work I would sit in the big bay window watching the sky. My grandmother planted simple seeds by repeatedly asking one question, "What do you see in the clouds?"
I find that the mind is either concrete or plastic; those that see water vapor in the sky or those that see dragons turn into white fluffy bunnies getting gobbled be up by giant pirate ships. Looking to the sky, seeking out cloud formations, brings me to a place of both calm and inspiration.
I would hazard a guess that in almost any work of literature a cloud is mentioned. Whole novels have been sparked by skies swallowed up with thunderheads. Generally people write to be read. Yet the process of going from an exclusively internal thought to a set of external symbols can be a frustrating endeavor. In the world of writing grammar is the mortar and imagination is the brick. Without the imaginings grammar is all but pointless.
Imagination can be dry, it can be pure fancy, or anywhere in-between. However society seems to have stifled playful thought by the age of nine or ten. When adulthood arrives personal fantasy is buried, or so formulaic that a written form is needed to play a game. How strange it is that a nation like the United States, which prides itself on art and innovation mutes the imagination of its youth.
My grandmother opened the window to my imagination by pulling back the curtains of formal education and letting me be a child. The muse — that spark of an idea or an imagining — can be both a blessing and a curse. At times words can spew forth like the Yukon River with so much material to be sifted through seeking the little nuggets of gold. At other times words must be eked out of an almost dry pen.
The pain and pleasure of writing from the imagination can make a cloud seem so compassionate. A fluffy white cloud can bring back memories of warm spring picnics, while dark storm clouds bring back memories of childhood fears. The ecstasy of putting the fears to paper can calm the nerves, while writing of the joys can bring on melancholy of days passed.
Writing is much like the formation of a cloud. Memories and ideas condense in the mind, floating until so heavy as to fall from a pen like rain, to the fertile soil that is paper.