“Look at that cloud,” Todd said. “It looks exactly like an elephant.”
And I saw it immediately. Typically, when someone points out an image he has spotted in the clouds, I have to tilt my head. I have to squint. I have to clarify which cloud I’m meant to be inspecting, this one or that, before acquiescing. Yeah, I can sort of see that,I’ll say. This elephant cloud, though – I saw it. The outline of it’s trunk, of it’s ears, of each stocky leg, was as well-defined, as keen and clear, as the Atlanta traffic over which it hovered.
It hit me then, on our ride into midtown, that I’ve always associated elephants with clouds. It is a pairing that has nothing to do with logic or reason and everything to do with Walt Disney’s Dumbo; how that alcoholic stork, with a bundled baby Dumbo, stopped and sat atop a cloud in order to inspect, through bloodshot eyes, the map to the zoo train where Mrs. Jumbo awaited the delivery of her calf.
As a girl, Dumbo was my favorite movie. My father bought our first VCR specifically so that I might have my own copy of the film. CBS advertized that it would feature Dumbo on it’s Sunday night program, The Wonderful World of Disney, and Dad went out and purchased the VCR. It was the first movie we ever recorded (and probably our most-watched tape). That scene with the stork was such a nail-biter; he was so engrossed in the map, and all the while Dumbo’s heavy body was sinking through the cloud. The stork caught him, of course, but barely.
I thought clouds were that way for the longest time. That they were light, but solid. That they, the individual clouds we could see from the ground, were cohesive and with form. Like handfuls of synthetic pillow stuffing or wads of cotton candy. My first trip on an airplane, then, turned out to be somewhat disappointing.
“Where are the clouds?” I asked my mother.
“They’re all around us,” she said. “They look different now that we are in the sky with them, don’t they? Like fog.”
I feel like adulthood, and all it’s trappings – employment, homemaking, motherhood – are basically like that. When you consider the view from below, when you study it as a child, adulthood looks like such a solid, “together” state of existence. Once you gain some altitude, though, once you start cruising along, you see it for what it is. A vapor, of sorts. A vapor of experiences and feelings that are constantly changing – that are drawn up, or released, molecule by molecule. It is a fog. Beautiful, but precarious. It is the elephant cloud that is changed by the wind into a turtle before you have time to snap a picture with your phone. But turtle clouds are nice. And whatever appears after the wind blows the turtle cloud – that, too, will be lovely.