Well, I don’t have the flu, but yesterday was spent hunkered on the sofa, cold toes and achy limbs covered by a blanket. I even napped; I detest napping, but by one thirty I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I woke at a quarter after three, my son making a pizza in the kitchen. We have a small house, maybe fifteen feet from the couch where I stirred to where he was trying to be as quiet as possible. But the oven door makes a horrendous shrieking squeak; not even WD-40 fixes it.
I’m still feeling niggles along my arms today, also feeling a little… down. I’ve decided to go off the news; I just can’t hear anymore about Syria or Lance Armstrong, not even my beloved 49ers. If San Francisco wins on Sunday, perhaps I’ll peek at a few articles, but as I went on a news sabbatical during Lent in 2012, fed up to the eyeteeth with election hoo-haa, I’m again on information overload. Some of my stories emerge from current events, well, humph. I’ve enough plots to last a few years. I’d rather concentrate on other things.
Like clouds; as a teenager, I was nuts for clouds. Not the rain that might fall from them, that didn’t happen often in California. More was the whimsy and colour produced by clouds and light, by sunsets or blue skies. This morning, I was posting a shot from last week’s low tide onto my Tumblr, noting how I have always been a little obsessed by the decorated horizon. With this need to not know so much, I’m brought back to ancient times when cameras required film, there was no internet, I read newspapers.
Ah yes, the good old days…
My only aches back then were of so wishing to have a few extra bucks to develop a roll (or five) of film. I wasn’t thinking much about writing; I was listening to a lot of music via cassettes and a boombox, snapping clouds while living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by stillness. Well, it was quiet until I cranked the music to 11.
It was quiet when I took these shots, standing in our barnyard or on a two-lane highway in the center of Northern California, entranced by the skies overhead. I don’t know when I got my first Walkman, but I wasn’t using one when these photos were taken, in the mid 1980s. Just me and a camera, some basic Kodak film, nothing special about the equipment. My first childhood camera was an Instamatic with the ice-cube flash. By high school I had moved up a little, but no zoom, nothing more than a small device able to capture huge skies in a single click.
I was probably daydreaming, thinking about one day living in a big, exciting city (be careful what you wish for). I did long to live in Britain; that’s due to Kate Bush, who I am listening to right now. I recall an English assignment during my senior year of high school; we had to write chapter titles for an autobiography. Mine included something about living in London when I was thirty or thirty-one. So, I was hoping to one day traverse the ocean, but it was an ethereal fantasy. My life was these clouds in the quiet hush of Northern California, far from anything thrilling.
Now I look at these shots, wrapped in an aching wistfulness for that silence. I’m sure at the time I thought it was too silent, unless the tunes were blasting. But as I took these photographs there was no music, maybe just the hum of a passing truck, maybe clatter of siblings back at the house. Or maybe it was only me and the clouds and a camera.
For a few brief moments, that was all there was.