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t h e   c l o u d   p e o p l e

b y   A n d r e w   L o v a t t

gold spirit clouds high on the hill digital picture by andrew loavtt


the ole ones used to tell of the days when the island was hidden to the world, shrouded in the clouds to the west of man-dom, in the deep black green sea. ships from the so-called civilized man world disappeared there enough times so that later man ships avoided the dark swirling green place and dropped it from their cartography, or marked it with skulls and crosses as a death-end from where none returned. the ole ones cackled when the shipwrecked ones crawled ashore and told these yarns. of course the shipwrecked never left. no boats and no wish to leave either. they found themselves wrapt in the arms of the green people, more hospitable and unlike man they’d never met. they drank big draughts of their black stuff and ate plates filled with mounds of steaming food. so quickly seduced by the cloud life were they, these shipwrecked ones soon joined the locals in climbing the mountain to worship the clouds which danced above their heads in a tumultuous symphony of welcomes. welcome to the little hole in the clouds where they could venerate their sky. they called it their sky and were sure no others had this particular piece of it. they called it haven too, and buried their dead on the slopes, the higher to the apex the more they’d wish to pass off into it when the passing time came. they called this a spiritual path and many paid a dear price to be buried saintly near the top.

so it was the clouds they worshipped on a daily basis. down from the mount, under the belly of the swirling creature where the light was a speckled flickering of white and black and gray all between, in so many shades of shade that shadows were rarely seen and obviously not needed. the people knew in their bones all things are conditional, one thing on another in a web of interlocking moments of coincidence, so they never constructed a usual logic to put everything in its place, and boxed for safety too. (an understandable, sanctioned reality of known contents.) they knew the world was wild, unreasonable, full of fury and fire. life and death were real and to be reckoned with, a living teacher. and sometimes too a weird unspoken compassion crept in. whether it their imagination they were never sure, but it seemed somewhere beyond the clouds something emanated and crept in with the light. insinuated itself you might say. little particles of radiance appeared. and as they saw it, so they saw themselves and differently. certainly they never quite knew how it did this. but in those moments the landscape itself and all the people on it changed their meaning. they saw each other anew as if the sun came out. saw the radiance of soul glinting all around and in the cracks of things. as if something in the light redeemed it all or they saw life illumined at it’s proper intensity. with love, some said. they had no other explanation. and none was needed either.

thus the new ones, having confronted tempest and fallen through the black swirl of unknowing, arrived to a shore that was unlike any other anywhere. the greenness of the trees and bushes and fields overwhelmed, swept into every pore of mind and body like perfume to the eyes. once you had seen it you could never be the same again. it too had this unreal-seeming magic potency, infiltrating the senses, informing the mind, speaking to the heart. so the new ones were changed the minute they stepped ashore dripping from the green sea. the minute they wiped their eyes and saw it. it was done. they had seen. and it was enough to make them welcome to the cloud people, who knew the mystery was clear enough to all even if it seemed unanswerable. they had given up logic centuries ago and learned instead to live between things, like creatures living in the cracks of some massive moving living thing. existing in the rhythm of time and circumstance. they were the crack people as much as the cloud people.

so it was the music and the dance which the gods gifted them which told the story in a living form. they could drink a pint to it and tap their toes and remember. it was still there even in the darkest of moments. that and the fire pit spirit which brought them back fighting for life. for life they knew was a precious battle against the odds of the universe. you live at your peril. an irony of existence they knew well, and sometimes chuckled over.

by all accounts this cracked seeing shouldn’t be allowed. and in man countries that was true. they had long outlawed un-logic and canonized the head as the king of brains. it hung as an idea in their dry imaginations like the picture of an ancient skull ritual. a head on a stake. a snarling pained looking bone face, which they venerated and decorated so beautifully that all over the world the man people worshipped this dead idea and thought it real and true and wonderful. the dressing of the dead as alive became so excellent done that doubt disappeared as a virtue. all the myth and mystery became sucked into icons of nourishing logical consumption. brightly colored consumable things. so that the more the man people ate the more they wanted and the more they worked to make the things they ate and wanted, and the more they paid. all the man people were fat with this logical eating. but it never fully satisfied, so that the more they made and ate and sold and bought, it was all the same and became stale and boring easily. there were whole industries, which grew like culture used to, dedicated to inventing new colors and configurations of known things. the rulers rightly feared a bored public. for once the gut of dissatisfaction reached critical, the fire of revolt burst up and overwhelmed their precariously ensconced head brain and swept hell and death and war around the globe.

this the green people heard from the shipwrecked.

so many stories in fact that they became wizened by the listening and never had the desire to leave the island to find out for themselves. of course it could have been a fable, all these anecdotal stories, but they piled up one on another the way things do until they became biblical in their re-telling. the shipwrecked always found a high stool in the pub made for them, and plenty of the black thick stuff to wet their throats so they’d sing a sweeter story. and the ole ones would gather round and cackle into their big glasses of black drink and wink at each other with knowingness.

these stories of other lands had been told since the beginning of their time and everyone had learned of man world; in great detail too. but it was the shipwrecked who had the biggest eyes and ears when the ole ones became moved to talk. then they’d gather round wooden tables of spilled black wet stuff, and listen to the ole ones as they drank and smoked and blew great clouds of haziness around everyone. like a halo of unknowing. entering a land of no map and no reason. fitting through a crack in the apparent. slipping into a space that opened before them. a clockless place where the stories are found, coming and going like the clouds they worshipped. never fixed. never concrete certain. never logical. never quite the same. always new. ever being born.

yet there was something in the stories all the same that made them loved and wanted by the people. and the cloud gods returned this love and devotion with even greater stories to tell through the mouths of those who were moved and found themselves in the right place at the right moment. it was just like the clouds. even when you climbed the mountain you had to be fortunate to be in the right spot and give up the anxiety of last and first, to find the space that is ever there and not there, which comes when it pleases. still to be there and still, almost breathless. to witness the beauty of the clouds forming and shaping and growing and passing over you. the shocking contrast of this living thing against the cool blue motionless sky speaking to them that have ears, or through the eyes of those that could see. between these two great living things and behind them lay something else sensed and hinted but never apparent. it was both in them and out of them at the same time. they lived within it. and it was this ineffable presence they felt to be the source not only of the radiance that sometimes came upon them all but also of everything existing. as if this presence was existence itself.

rosie laughed. her head tilted back and mouth opened to the ceiling. such a big deep rippling laugh. it sounded like water running over stones. a hundred little laughs in one. her face lined with laughter. old weathered skin stretched skywards. all lines pointing to the absurdity of the moment. her bony knuckled hand was wrapped around a big glass of the black stuff, which was half raised in the air and slopping and splashing over the edges like an unconscious ritual; blessing the table. she was in the right moment. something changed in the air. all around the table the others and the shipwrecked paused instantly, sensing the place had been found. they waited for rosie to tell it. and as her mouth gave up the laughter, the lines of the face turned into gentle curves of mirth. she slowly tilted forward, coming upright, and everyone could see the particles dancing in her eyes. so they listened very quietly.

rosie looked at them all and laughed. she liked the story too.

" the beginning of it all, they tell me, was when the great ship plowed into the green ocean and did battle with the tempest of unknowing. braving the element of doubt face to face. so at sea was the great ship that it lost compass and place and bearing. was tossed up and pitched down and turned all around by the great dark green sea, which played with it like a child, but a serious child for whom one feels responsible for its learning. even in death there is knowing, this it knew. it could swallow the thing if it wanted to. but it didn’t, and the great ship and all upon her fought for their lives as never before, with such a deep certain soul none had seen on land or ever before. and it was their courage and audacity which brought them before the cloud gods, who came down to sniff and push and lick the great ship and all upon and within her, like a giant mother panther would play life and death games with her litter; the better for their growing. they came down swirling and howling and black and gray and white and thundering, to see if this thing was alive and worthy of recognition. and so moved were the cloud gods by these green people that they wrecked the great ship where it stood. just stopped it and flattened it out into an island, with a few bumps for variety. but leaving the huge mast built up as a mountain. as a way for the green people to climb up and speak to them. they wanted to know us and us to know them."

the gathering muttered, clinked glasses and looked and smiled at one another, then quietly placed them down on the wet wooden table and resumed looking at rosie. it was plain to see she wasn’t finished. the young one nudged the old one for a cigarette and lit it up and blew smoke into the middle of the gathering. he was allowed.

rosie sipped her glass with gathered poise, not her usual happy lustful haste. under the influence of the opening her mind was tuned to the clouds and beyond, and filling and emptying with light and images which resonated so strongly they reached down into her toes.

" it wa the coming of the tall ones through the black spring storms…"

[]

11 may 03, newbridge
a work in progress

image: gold clouds and gray, by a lovatt

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