What do you make of the sky this time of year?
Gargoyles, sheep, mushroom clouds, bunnies, maps of Africa, lost schooners, melting dollops of vanilla ice cream, the profile of George Washington, tacos. Tacos? Yes, tacos.
Come monsoon season over Vegas, the mind gets its annual Rorschach writ in vapor. When my son was in kindergarten, he was certain that clouds were made of wool. Time has brought him science, but the wonder hasn’t receded.
Last year, he built his seventh-grade science project around his photographs of the sky before and during the Mount Charleston fire. The dust and smoke had risen from the peaks, joined the sky-bound water and hovered rust-orange over the city: The schooner sails had taken on flame; George Washington was, once again, a redhead. One could not tell where the fire’s destruction ended and the sky’s creation began.
But even the purest of skies builds its clouds around the swept-up particles of our dry earth. Up there just wouldn’t be the same without down here. It needs our dust; it’s hard to say whether it’s indifferent to our dreams.
“The Old Testament God repeatedly says he wants praise,” the writer John Updike said. “And I translate that to mean that the world wants describing.” Or perhaps it simply wants observing—the upward glance, almost furtive in a world of phone-watchers, the calm effort required to see and smell the sky. (The scent of cloud-cover is its own genre, calling out for the wine taster’s descriptive powers.) This is the season of the plausibly implausible: The rolling clouds give one the sense that the Red Sea could, indeed, be split, and that Moses, or at least Heston, trod desert soil not unlike our own.
This, of course, is all very old-fashioned of me. I am writing to a mental soundtrack of Segovia and Leonard Cohen and the rattle of wind on palm fronds. Which brings me, as things will, to texting, which Updike never linked with God, but which can be a handy way to get a friend to look up. Here, with apologies to everyone involved, is a snippet of text dialogue between my 13-year-old son and a friend. Both of them live in Henderson, a mile or two away from one another:
Him: Did you see this cloud?
Her: What cloud? Does it say “sent” on ur phone?
Him: The really dark one. Now it’s right above me.
Her: Wait, did you send a pic?
Him: No. Look outside.
Her: Look outside where?
Him: Go outside. And look at that cloud.
Her: Where are you?
Him: At my house.
Her: Then how am I supposed to see a cloud that’s over there?
The happy end to this story is that she did, indeed, go outside, see the cloud, and agree that, yeah, it was a cloudy day. By that time, my son had sent her a video of the cloud. Later, she watched it and at last shared my son’s astonishment:
“Wow, that cloud IS huge. In the video.”
As I was saying, we live in a time of wonders.
Former Vegas Seven editor Greg Blake Miller is the director of Olympian Creative Coaching & Consulting—personal training for the creative mind. Visit OlympianCreative.com.