November 25, 2022
My wife and I recently drove out to Colorado to visit my son and his family who live about an hour or so north of Denver. The trip provided several experiences of being in clouds even though in our car we were traveling about 3 feet off the ground.
We decided to make the drive west in two days because it’s about 16 hours and we were under no particular pressure. So, we stayed overnight just west of Lincoln, Nebraska. It was 68 degrees when we left Lincoln the next morning, although the temperature was supposed to fall during the day to about 57. As we drove about an hour west we noticed the ominous cloudbank ahead and we watched the temperature begin to drop as we headed into it.
Thirty minutes further west and we entered a fairly thick fog. Visibility dropped to maybe a half mile. The dashboard thermometer seemed to change about every 15 minutes. In less than an hour it fell all the way to 30 degrees. Even though we knew that we were on the Great Plain where the horizon usually stretches beyond eyesight, the entire visible world was suddenly smallness itself.
Soon we were driving through mist. The roadway was just damp rather than wet because I don’t think the mist was as much falling as the air within the fog was just that saturated with moisture. It really did feel like we were in a huge cloud.
We drove through that cloud well into Colorado, when suddenly just a half hour from our destination the sun melted the fog away and the world opened once again to reveal miles and miles of rolling hills and sagebrush.
A week later we headed eastward to home. It was sunny, clear and dry when we headed out and it stayed that way until we were almost to Iowa. It was interesting to see everything that was shrouded the week before; the world seemed large again.
Clouds though were thickening and descending as we passed through Omaha. About 50 miles still west of Des Moines light snow began to streak across the windshield. Between the wind and the traffic and the lightness of the snowflakes the road stayed dry until we turned north at Des Moines. Thirty minutes later the road began to be wet; twenty minutes more and snow began accumulating on the snow edges; and thirty minutes more and the slush began covering the entire road. Everything was now white and we were within the cloud again. Rather than push on home as intended we pulled off in Minnesota to rest nerves and bodies.
In the morning we headed for the final push home in a swirl of still-falling snowflakes. As we neared La Crosse the road descended and the surrounding bluffs and hills ascended. New-fallen snow clung to the tree limbs so that the rolling bluffs took on the look of billowing white clouds. The accompanying picture captures the view to an extent, but not the feeling of the moment – a reminder how we need all senses alert to truly experience any moment.
At home the next day, the one to two inches of snow that covered the yard inspired me to finally tune up the snowblower. Thinning clouds were moving quickly overhead. As I worked out in the driveway I heard them – what sounded like a large flock of swans. I listened as they came out of the west, nearer and nearer, but they were not visible. It was if the clouds themselves were calling as swans. Finally, though as they passed overhead the flock of white swans materialized from the clouds several hundred strong, gracefully and powerfully riding the westerly headwinds. I guessed they were headed to nearby waters of Green Bay to rest and feed for a day or two before continuing onward to Chesapeake Bay. They melded back into the clouds. In the next half hour two more flocks of swans, each larger than the last, passed overhead. The snow-white swans slipping out of and into the white clouds was a fitting conclusion to these experiences of being earthbound and yet in clouds.