Lunacy and Light

dec_moon580 An approaching cold front yesterday brought clearing skies and strong winds that pushed tattered clouds before the leading edge of it.

The thermometer dropped back into all to familiar territory.  Again. For six more weeks, the groundhog says.

I suppose I am among a small number of people who so easily mesmerized by this particular combination of light and shadow. I am compelled to stand and watch the familiar washed by dizzying stroboscopic racing cloud shadows. The effect is especially wonderful at night.

I don’t do poetry, but if I did, it would look something like this, from 2002, and recorded in What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader. After that a link to a 30 second video of cloud shadows from the front porch yesterday to help you get the idea, if you have never observed this wonderful phenomenon.


Blue razor shadows tangle bare bones of trees against the shoulders of hills
white daggers dark translucent buried in new snow
Vision silver bright burns seamless memory from sigh of wind, smell of cold
And then, a motion, somewhere, movement–

It is the flicker of a silent movie and again.
Not movement sudden faintly at the edge of vision subtle, massive and unnamed.
With lunacy and light the valley fills, empties as dark waves surge past,
and again a fleet of cloudships propelled by moonbeams.

White light and blue, they come in liquid shadows shades of gray
the size of meadows
Surging from behind us–under our feet
poured into creeks and quickly away rising without effort
under snow under oaks to the top of the ridge and gone.

And the world flashes from life to death
from shadow of cloud to light of the Unfamiliar
and I am terrified and I am made whole
– a frail vapor so close to heaven and
so In love with this pulsing world.

I should be able to embed a video. I am not, no matter how I parse it. So apologies, here’s the link. Cloud Shadows YouTube February 5, 2014

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Good poem, Fred! Especially when combined with the video, so those folks who have not had much opportunity to witness cloud shadows can connect better with your poem’s descriptions. I have enjoyed racing cloud shadows when driving across the Great Plains on several occasions, but I have never been out in the moonlight on a windy night. Too chicken to face the wind chill factor.