Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I was telling my mom last night that she should get an account on Facebook to keep up with my siblings and me. She doesn't have an Internet connection at home (can you really live that way?), so she declined for now. But it occurred to me -- I'm careful enough with what I throw out to the online ether in case a potential editor or employer looks me up, but what if my mom did get a Facebook account?

I decided to speculate --

This week's status updates, if my mom became my Facebook friend:

Kimberly called that financial institution that keeps calling her mom's number, and it turns out they were just calling to say what a responsible, model borrower she is.

Kimberly is replying to all her e-mail in a timely manner, especially e-mails from her mom.

Kimberly never speeds.

Kimberly is meticulously balancing her checkbook, just like she does each and every week.

Kimberly is going to bed at a decent hour each night, and rising with the sun each morning.

Kimberly is totally not wasting time online. In fact, this is the only time she's been online all day. She's going offline now to get big-time important grownup stuff done.

Kimberly hardly ever has Diet Coke for breakfast.

Kimberly's bank account is thriving and she doesn't ever dread checking the balance, despite what anyone may have heard.

Kimberly's son listens to her and minds absolutely all the time, as she has developed a consistent system of discipline thanks to her own upbringing.

Kimberly is putting work before play, and not deluding herself that play is work.

Kimberly is going to the doctor regularly for checkups.

Kimberly is not writing this update to procrastinate real work. On the contrary, all her work is already finished, well ahead of schedule.

Kimberly is not cracking her knuckles.

Kimberly's backyard is in pristine condition, thanks to the hard work she puts into it each and every morning.

Kimberly loves getting phone calls from her mom.

Kimberly is being honest with that last one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Falling (now with 60 percent more gratuitous bubble pics!)

The fall doesn't really come when it officially arrives around here.

The calendar says fall started a few days ago. Fall break is next week, and I'm hoping to go camping with my family, or at least take a bunch of extended walks. Maybe see a few early mornings and teach my son some September-October constellations, heedless of bedtimes and school nights. But it's still getting up to 102 degrees today and tomorrow.

By the time winter officially arrives in three months, we'll have just gotten used to enjoying cool temperatures, and it will sort of seem like we plunge into a cold winter with only a tiny autumn intermission. (Yes, friends/family in the Northeast and pretty much everywhere but Arizona. We do consider 65 degrees "plunging into cold.")

Right now, right this second, it seems a little like fall. It's still early enough in the day, in the 80s. There's a cool breeze. The air feels great to breathe, like drinking. The leaves (most don't turn color and drop around here) gleam in some barely discernible way, and the way the light lies on them seems to indicate that this is an in-between time. There'll be these moments off and on until winter, but not always. Mostly we just plunge in without realizing it.

Unfortunately, the "fall" in the other sense of the word seems to have arrived and moved in at Hosey-Wilson headquarters. I don't have a job. Can't seem to sell shit. Can't seem to write shit. My husband has a job, but one for which he is ridiculously overqualified. We have no money. We bicker about stupid crap. I propel myself out of the secondary chair in our home office. (We call it the cat's chair usually, but right now husband is in MY chair. Why is he on the computer anyway? Doesn't he know I need it?! Damn him and his need to unwind!). I holler something and slam the door, only to open it again in seven seconds, come back in, sit back down, and whine at him. What is wrong with us?

I am obsessed with the wrong kind of fall. David was playing on the little stone wall in our backyard last night, the one that surrounds a fire pit that hosts arthropods rather than flames. He pranced, balanced, leaped from the break in the wall to the other side, gripped the ledge with his bare toes. It was already slick from blowing bubbles; he'd flung soapy water all over it. Quit it, I told him again and again. He didn't care. He wasn't afraid of the fall. He didn't think about what a fall could mean. There's hard ground beneath you, I kept saying. A fall would be awful. But I never really do fall, he kept telling me. Even if he did, he reasonsed, it isn't really falling. I almost always catch him, or he catches himself. "It's just a half-fall, Mom," he said. "You're making it scarier by talking about it."

I had another glimpse of the good fall after that, last night. We just ... were.

I should back up. Yesterday began nicely -- I got some things done around the house, got a few random blog comments (how I can be reasonably sure I haven't arrived: that still makes me insanely happy), received a request to use a photo I'd forgotten I had even taken. The morning was clear and blue and breezy. Then my husband called and asked me to check our bank account balance, and well ... I mounted the fast track to the other kind of fall. By the time I left to pick up my son, all I could think was: We have no money. I didn't get anything done. Who cares about that photo; you're a writer, dammit. And why is it so hot again?!

And then, later, in the backyard, my son had the gall to play around with falling. He giggled about it. He jumped. Plunged. He landed on his bare feet, hard. Right beside where the backyard black widow used to live. (Not to be confused with the porch black widows, who are technically also in the backyard.) Sticks and web fragments stuck to his bare, bubble soapy feet.

He plunged, and loved it. He then moved on to the swings, where he again tested my cardiological health by leaping off the swing and trying tricks "that some guy at school showed me, before he fell off and skinned his face." But he survived, and my heart rate managed to stay below 200. He closed his eyes and swung hard, "making my own wind," he said. A fat lizard with a tail longer than its body scurried up and down the wall beside us. A giant dragonfly flitted in and out of the tree I never trim. The sky glowed with final smears of blue and cinnamon before going completely dark, and the crescent moon and stars winked on. He jumped one last time, trusting the ground to catch him without incident.

I don't know. Maybe the analogy isn't perfect. Maybe "fall" and "fall" is just a coincidence of language, and doesn't necessarily accommodate my hangups. Because the plunge would have to come first, right?

Because the thing is, I love plunges. I love roller coasters, cliff diving, those rides that just drop you over and over again, the feeling of leaving your stomach and heart somewhere above your head. As a kid, I liked that sensation of falling when I inevitably tipped too far in my chair. The only part that sucked was the actual collision, which is the part I equated with fall. If that part didn't happen -- like with roller coasters and diving into a lake and taking a chance that scares the crap out of you but turns out OK -- it didn't really count as a fall. The before-fall slice of time -- that part was great. Like the mornings around here lately, the almost-falls.

Whatever. Maybe my analogy almost works after all. Maybe falls are always fleeting around here. It's a matter of perspective. Maybe you're supposed to dwell on one, but I've picked the wrong one.

I'm applying to everything I can get my hands on. I'm submitting every day. I'm playing outside every evening. My husband and I are using the changes and challenges in our careers to grow closer, to support each other. I'm taking every ride I can. I have to. I'm in the plunge.

Maybe the fall doesn't really ever come. We'll plunge right in, all of us. And maybe it'll be pretty awesome.

Or at least, maybe we won't kill ourselves from a concussion after mixing soap suds and cement. And black widows.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Snapshots, featuring me!

I can't find his camera, which probably means he's been using it even more than I realized. For now though, I'll guest post my own photos to accompany the wordy snapshots. Cause, you know, I take a shot or two sometimes also.

**He was supposed to be getting ready for bed. I opened the bathroom door. No David. Movement to the right caught my eye. Hand soap was slathered over the cupboards, counter and sink edge in a thick orange film, and a giant cloud of soap suds towered from the sink and threatened to slop over onto the floor. Above all this, balancing high on the soap-slick bathroom counter, he stood, swaying and grabbing the flimsy mirrored medicine cabinet door for support. I glared. Lifted him down. He knew. For once, no protest, just "Sorry, Mom. I only started doing it yesterday."**

**He came upstairs as I was watching the sky deepen from the loft window. "What're you do... Oh." He stood and watched with me as the sky glowed in patches of peach and maroon, and doves careened up and down with no apparent purpose other than to ride the fading light. "Take lots of pictures," he told me. I did.**

**He brought my husband his birthday presents. "This one's from just Mom; the rest are from both of us," David said. "Well," my husband replied in his stupid voice, "Mom said she'd be getting me a certain present, and I certainly hope that one is just from her." My son glanced at me. I chose not to elaborate.**

**After Obama's speech, oblivious to the controversies and fears, both imagined and real, with which adults concern themselves, he gave his opinion on Obama's mother ("She had to do stuff on her own sometimes, but she loved him like how you love me, so she did it."), on persistence ("Did you know that lady who wrote Harry Potter had to send it out a bunch of times? Barack Obama said so. I wonder how many tries I'll need to publish my book."), and trying one's best in school ("Yeah; I think he said something about it. Can I have a juice pouch?")**

**I picked up the director's cut of Watchmen for my husband for his birthday. The questions started at once. "Why's that guy making fire? What're those guys doing? Are they good guys or bad guys? Why can't I watch it? When can I watch it? What's on that one guy's face?" Finally, a little fed up, I said "David, don't worry about it. You wouldn't like it anyway. It's not for kids, not even big boys." Of course, he protested. "Really," I said, "you wouldn't like it. It's AN ADULT MOVIE, and it's for Dad and me!" At these last few words, the whole of Borders went quiet.**

**Particularly bright splotches of cumulus clouds in the late-afternoon light drew my attention, and I set up the tripod in the front yard. He followed with his own camera, capturing a few shots of the giant solid clouds and then moving on to some wispy high-flung streaks I hadn't seen. He wanted us to just lay on the car hood and watch the clouds afterward. A passing neighbor chuckled at us. We must have looked odd, I guess. I didn't mind the reaction. David, on the other hand, didn't even notice the reaction. Just said hi and went back to cloud gazing. I think that must mean I'm doing something right.**

**"It's called the K-something, because C was already used up. It's the orange square," David said to his friend while digging in the sand under the slide, referring to a color-coded time line in a dinosaur book they'd been reading. "The dinosaurs all went extinct after the orange square, and it was probably a comet or an asteroid or something hitting the earth, plus lots of volcanoes, and the weather changed." His friend: "But some of them might have slowly died off, and not gotten to the edge of the orange square! So maybe it wasn't just an asteroid." David: "But the rest of them all died then; none of them got to the yellow square." (Yellow square = Tertiary Period.) "AND, there's, like, a layer of space sand on the earth right then!" His friend: "Wanna trade dinosaur books?" They agreed, then they threw sand at each other and dug for the K-T boundary in the neighborhood playground.**

**I got out of my car at the grocery store, and there was a guy standing feet from me. "HAHA!" he laughed for no apparent reason. "Working hard or hardly working?" "Um, probably the later, this time of day, hehe," I said, trying to be polite. He had pushed the automatic thing on his car, so I heard it beeping, but he was walking away from it and toward my son and me. I marched toward the store with much more deliberateness and speed than necessary. He was gone by the time I came back out ten minutes later. Still, I glanced in my back seat before getting in the car. My son thought I was getting his seat ready.**

**He made his own concoction for my husband's birthday snack: half-set chocolate pudding (with much more fudge pudding mix than strictly necessary), cookie crumbs smashed and sprinkled over it, and gummy worms crawling through the soil. My husband actually loved it. Of course he would have said so either way, but I think David could sense the sincerity. He was so proud.**

**I was hoping to spend the afternoon with him, but his friend called and asked if he could come over and play. I was a little sad, but he was so excited. Of course I said yes. He had a great time. Part of me wishes he still only had the best times with me, but this is part of being a parent, I suppose. And he was so happy.**

Friday, September 11, 2009


I always feel kind of bad.

If you're a writer, especially one who does any kind of personal writing, maybe you understand. I always feel sort of bad that I don't have anything to say. Well, maybe not anything, but not anything worth reading. I, along with just about everyone in the country who has ever put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, wrote pages of regrettable words in the days following 9/11. It all sucked, every last word of it. Sucked hard. I didn't want to add my own mediocrity to the stream of what was already making people become complacent about a man leaping off a freaking burning building, so those pages never saw the light of day. I think I threw them out last time we moved.

Also, I don't have anything special to add. I can add my own snippets, I suppose: How I got choked up (though I never would have expected it of myself) at a patriotic song the radio played the next day, interspersed with a speech from Bush. How I idiotically asked a store clerk, on September 11, 2002, for the date. I didn't know anyone directly involved in the tragedy, but I know a couple of people who had close friends die that day.

Of course, like everyone, I have my own where-were-you-when story. I was working the overnight shift at a factory that makes small explosive products (which is much less exciting than it sounds). I was a trainer/sometime supervisor, so my "overnight shift" was 6:30 p.m. to 8 or 9 the next morning. Also, I had just discovered I was pregnant and certain issues relating to that had their own attendant stresses. I worked/barfed/worked/worked/worked/barfed/drove home/barfed/tried to sleep/barfed/actually slept/got up/barfed/drove in/started over. That was it, every day. So I didn't get much news during that period in my life. It was because of this, I assume, that the first question my friend asked when he called that morning was "Where in New York does your family live?"

It was my first day off in about two weeks, and after I had a nap (or maybe before; I don't actually remember that part), I was going to meet a friend of mine. I was kind of excited, and it was silly. I had started to tell a few people about my pregnancy (mainly my boss, in case he wondered what the hell was wrong with me; and a guy I picked up before work one evening when he wondered why we had to pull over RIGHT NOW), but I hadn't told anyone from my "old" life* -- the circle of friends I had before I went crazy, basically. I couldn't tell the person I wanted to tell the most (my husband, who was then my ex and not yet my again-boyfriend) because, well, I just couldn't. But I had managed to decide to tell another good friend (who was an ex, had been my husband's best friend, and would briefly become an again-boyfriend -- come on, you have these things too). He was calling to invite me to that lunch. We were going have ribs. (Damn, did I crave ribs.) And I was going to get to tell someone who knew me. I felt good about that.

"New York? Why?" I asked. My brain was already falling asleep, and I didn't really get it.

"Have you seen the news today?"

I turned it on. Of course, no further discussion was necessary. There was the somber-faced announcer. The ten million tickers going in different directions as if statistics and sheer volume of partial information would alleviate the pain. The two planes crashing into the two towers over and over again. A guy leaped from one of them.

I didn't really take it in much, right then. My family is from Upstate (read: not New York City) New York, so that was OK, as far as I knew. I had a few friends in New York, but I didn't think they went near the towers. I didn't really know, actually. And the guy wasn't telling us anything new.

And we went out to eat. I'm still not sure how OK that is. But we'd said and felt all we really could about it, and the immediacy of it had somehow prevented it from sinking in all the way. We still had this one day that we'd managed to eke out a lunch together. We still both had crap in our lives to bitch about. We liked the ribs. Hated the dessert. The televisions in the restaurant had the coverage on. We didn't watch it much.

Three months previously, I'd gotten myself up shit creek without a paddle -- hell, I'd lopped off my hands. That day, I finally told someone whose opinion mattered about it. Exactly six months from that day, my son would be born to much drama, pain, and joy. I hadn't even begun to deal with all the everyday, mundane drama in my own little bubble. How could I possibly wrap my brain around the almost 3,000 lives lost that day and the millions of lives it would directly influence?

See? That's why I never wrote about 9/11. I'm a self-centered little shit.

But I did cope, eventually, with both my own troubles and the nation's. I got emotionally invested. I cried, a little. Wrote a lot. Barfed, though I'm pretty sure that was related to my physical condition. Made jokes at completely inappropriate times.

One of the things Bush said in the speech that was so sentimentally patriotic it would be mocked at any other time -- and one of the things I think everyone unequivocally supported -- was (and I'm paraphrasing here) that we have to move on, remember the little things in our lives too. We can't let this define us. I think that's what I was trying to do, in my own way. I was trying not to let working at a job I kind of hated define me. I was trying not to let being the Rebellious Daughter define me. I was trying not to let unwed pregnancy define me. And I sure wasn't going to let some asshole mass murderers define my one available day of real life in ages.

Eight years later, this morning, my son and I laid in bed together, in that sublime in-between time when you don't quite remember what day or time or anything it is, just that you're together, he's already seven and a half, for goodness sake, his hair smells like coconuts, and you're happy. Then we fought about his homework. Then we made up. As he sucked my cheek in in a overenthusiastic goodbye kiss, I saw a ring of stuffed red, white, and blue paper-bag turkeys along the school's perimeter fence. (Were they trying to be patriotic and get a jump on Thanksgiving? Who knows.) They were interspersed with red, white and blue streamers and balloons. I remembered. David did too. I got a little choked up. Then, he punched my butt and yelled, "Poopdeck!"

Little things and big things.

I know two people with birthdays on this day. I never know how to wish them a happy birthday without sounding like I'm forgetting to remember for a moment -- but still, who forgets about birthdays? I bet some people do. I bet they get less "Happy Birthdays" than just about anyone. It's too bad.

I'm going to hit "Publish Post" now, before I have time to re-evaluate this round of words and navel-gazing, or be embarrassed that I talked about gastrointestinal issues, or even obliquely deprecate myself any further. Because I think that, at the very least, as with so many other things on the exact same day, a little distance has deepened some things, eased others -- helped.

*Except for my mom, of course, who was as awesome and supportive as I expected she would be.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Clouded vision

He looked and looked. At nothing.

"What are you looking for?" I asked him.

"The rabbit," he said. I rolled my eyes -- unconcerned he might see, because his own were pointed skyward. He always did this. Ask him where his shoes are, or to wipe up the milk, and the mouth goes slack and the eyes roll upward. What the hell is up there?

"Maybe it's behind the bush," I suggested reasonably. A jackrabbit, legs at awkward angles and ears radiating away the afternoon heat, had just loped behind a massive creosote.

"No, Mom," he said. "Up there." (Here "Mom" sounded like "Dumbass" and "Up there" sounded like "Are you high?")

"The rabbit chasing the crocodile," he added as if this clarified the matter. I followed his gaze -- and sure enough, there was a rabbit. To be fair, it had mutated; the ears looked more like antennae and the tail had either elongated or (my son's favored explanation) disappeared behind a particularly long bowel movement. It was indeed chasing a crocodile. The latter appeared to be responding to this encroaching threat by detaching its own tail.

I was late to the game, but we had resumed cloud watching.

It's become a routine. Children, I read recently, become disconsolate each day as the afternoon approaches and passes. The light changes; they re-realize that passage of time occurs and that this day will soon end. They despair.

I don't know about that, but I do know that my son is a freaking jerk if I let him sit on the couch throughout the afternoon. On such days, our conversations go something like this:

Me: Sweetie, why don't you get some homework done? Or demonstrate in some way that you're still among the living?
Him: Mooom! Stop it!
Me: Excuse me?
Him: Stop bossing me a-round!
Me: I don't know why you think you can get away with that attitude, but you can either cut it out or go in the corner and then do your homework anyway.
Him: Mumble mumble whine whine Moooom whine cry mumble sniffle.
Me: Just do your work, and I'll forget it.
Him: No, THANK you! (Flounces to corner, where he sends me Screw you, Mom vibes with his eyeballs.)

He apologizes within sixty seconds and is extra lovey for the rest of the day, but I'd just as soon forgo the experience. We'd sought the solace of the neighborhood park. We were outside for the sheer joy of it, but also to head off any onslaught of grouchiness. It was working.

Today, cumulus clouds dominated. ("Hey, Mom!" he'd said with obvious delight, "The weather was wrong! It's not a clear blue day!" Here, I always try to tell my non-Arizonan friends, cloudy equals good weather.) Cumulus are the big puffy clouds that make such good shapes -- the rabbit and crocodile or, earlier, an ice cream cone on a foot.

He stood in the shade created by my body -- nothing like being used as an awning to make one feel nice and petite -- and pointed out a particularly shapely cumulus mediocris (as wide as it is tall) that looked like a fat skull when viewed one way, or flowers another. He preferred the skull. Then he just stood and stared, his index finger half-pointing but forgotten. The gaze and slackened jaw looked more awed than stupid now. An easygoing breeze chased itself in gentle gusts around the trees as birds skimmed the branch tips, and he stared at clouds as solid-looking as mountains, as tall too, but mutable and morphing like the globs in a lava lamp. A knobby, marbly bit of cloud poked from the rest of the mass and was edged with brilliant while light, reminding me of a kid I'd seen once peeking out of the curtains before a school talent show. David absent-mindedly made a "poof" motion with his hand, like you would do to flick water. His fingers stayed open.

Luke Howard, a Quaker and chemist I've been hearing about from David lately, who made up names for the clouds in a specific year I'll totally look up later, was obsessed with clouds. He began at age ten to keep a weather journal. By fifteen, he recorded the weather conditions twice a day, using a thermometer, weather vane, rain gauge, and barometer. I'm not even sure I remember exactly what a barometer does.

David pointed out a stretch of clouds above the cauliflower mass we'd been studying. It looked like a few streaks of cream cheese frosting spread too thin (everyone knows frosting you can see through is way too thin) over the sharp blue sky.

"Cool," I said. "Stratus clouds too!"

"Actually, Mom, I think they're cirrus clouds. Stratus are the lower-down ones," he answered distractedly, extending a thumbs-up before his face as if to frame a picture, but instead pretending to smear it along the wispy clouds.

I looked it up later. He was right, of course.

David probably knows what a barometer does. He wants to be like the "cloud namer guy," he said. I bet Luke Howard looked in the air for his shoes too.

The science club where Howard introduced his paper in the early 1800s -- entrenching stratus, cirrus, and cumulus in meteorology talk and cotton-ball-bedecked construction paper forever after -- had recently featured a "demonstration" of laughing gas, in which, apparently, they watched each other stumble around the stage for the hell of it. Classy sophisticates they were not. But I bet they knew the day would be cloudy if a pine cone's scales were down. They knew what a barometer did. They knew their cirrus from stratus, even before they had names. I bet they finger painted the cirrus clouds.

Howard's achievement was to use a system to give clouds their own names and character, rather than writing them off as gods in the sky and calling it a day. He chose Latin words, modeling his system after Linnaeus. (Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately if you're my husband or son -- he chose carefully, and we aren't obliged to point out well formed, billowy labia or a particularly shapely phallus formation.)

David came home with all this information recently, and has wanted to cloud gaze since then. He's done the requisite blue-paper-with-cotton-balls-glued-to-it activity (Of course I can tell one cloud from another, I lied), and his bonus spelling word the other day was cumulonimbus. He's just scratched the surface, but while I turn at once to a book, he remembers to just look at stuff if he wants to learn about it.

So I followed his example. A week later, I can't believe I ever had a hard time telling stratus from cirrus. I can't believe I went first to a book for the answer, instead of the sky.

Another thing: Arizona, especially right now, is awesome for clouds. Somehow, I never knew that.

Cumulus are my favorite. Clouds that look solid, not even soft really, fascinate me. The raw cauliflower texture; the bits of harsh white light and spots of navy blue shadow, so that it leaves an after image when I take a picture and look away to blink; the climbing and work I need to do to view them properly over the city's detritus as they droop on the horizon; all draw me as no other formation seems to. The dense, chunky, sharply defined forest of white domes heaps together in some irresistible manner ("cumulus" is Latin for "heaped"). This is the reason I never really got Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," which is otherwise a lovely meditation. I got stuck at "cloud" and pictured one of these. Never mind the daffodils -- what, I wondered, could be lonely about a robust, lively, conglomerated force like this? I'd love to be a droplet in a cumulus. I'd never, ever be lonely. Cumulus are the "cloud-shaped" clouds, and their basic cloud outline was pretty much the staple (and limit) of my artistic endeavors in school.

But David's right; cirrus are pretty awesome too. They're the high-flung, streaky, smeary tendrils and wisps. Cirrus is Latin for "lock of hair," but they seem even more ephemeral than that, though I know they're made of billions to trillions of ice crystals. They seem to spread, drift, separate and rejoin more readily than other cloud types, but don't quote me on that. They feahter and swirl, unreeling and curling tails back on themselves. The ones David and I saw that day looked like wild flowing tresses, fraying and tangling, unfurling and overlapping one another before morphing once again or dissolving entirely.

Stratus clouds are another beast. They're the ones I notice least. During most of the day, even if they're there, you probably won't notice them either. They're soft, diffuse, featureless sheets. However, if you've ever been in a cloud (fog, that is) it was a stratus. And they really come into their own at sunrise or sunset. Their boringness almost makes it more rewarding, since I'm dumb enough to be surprised nearly every time. I'll check the sky and see a palette of totally blah clouds, and prepare to call it a day. Then, just as the sun hits the houses across the street, the stratus clouds act like a sky-sized softbox, bouncing a brilliant diffuse glow of pink or gold or pumpkin orange through our dining room window. If we go outside -- as we nearly always do -- we're rarely disappointed. The flat clouds stay dark throughout about half of their masses, but the bottom half will be a resplendent, textured gradation from purples and maroons all the way through red and orange, to the bottom, where the light escapes in a lemony yellow burst. Nothing catches light quite like a stratus.

And then there are the cloud moments scattered throughout the last week or so, since I began to notice.

I was driving to the library the other day and saw a turkey vulture flying in the opposite direction, below a massive scaffolding of altocumulus (The big fleecy conglomerations of cloudlets; in this case it looked like perfectly spaced crop rows). The formation, combined with our opposing directions, made the vulture appear to be shooting through the sky even as it lazily tipped and soared.

A collection of overstuffed cumulus merged, turned dark brown-gray and developed into a towering cumulonimbus as David and I watched from the swing set in the backyard. We watched the mass (a cumulonimbus can be up to 60,000 feet high, more than twice as tall as the world's highest mountain) as it flickered. Lightning flashed from somewhere deep inside it and thunder rumbled through its thick billows. My hair stung my eyes as a gust whipped it, doves made tiny black arrows against the sky as they flew for cover, and a lizard sat on the slide, doing push-ups and looking apprehensive. All at once the cloud released its potential, big fat drops raising their own mini-clouds in the dust of the parched ground. Within fifteen minutes the rain cleared (I heard later three inches had dropped in those fifteen minutes in some areas). Everything was drowned in a yellow light. I saw a spaghetti-thin tail disappear as the lizard ran for cover.

At sunset, David leaned precariously from a ladder, craning to capture the entire thing in his viewfinder as he snapped picture after picture. (I don't know where he picked up that habit.) A long thin cloud, pale and shiny like a scar at first, was suddenly lit from behind. Fine lines of deepest red and blazing yellow singed the horizon as, at last, colors bled together and finally drained from the day. David asked me to write that there were stratus and cumulus. I grab a notepad from the patio that on which I'd written a note to myself earlier that week: We are all symbiotic. (What had I meant by that?) I turned it over, took his notes. He found a feather we think is from a hawk and held it up to the light. The sun highlighted and defined each barb. He held it at arm's length and pretended to brush the clouds into the sky. Just before dipping out of sight, the sun cast rays from the lowermost cloud -- crepuscular rays, which the Maori say are ropes restraining the sun to make the day last longer. The otherwise dull stratus clouds held the sun until the last second, casting warm, soft echoes to us. Like breathable light.

I put my notes away, David grabbed the hawk feather, and we headed in. I prayed for rain the next day, but especially for clouds.