Life in The Cloud

Ah yes. Now I remember. Life in the cloud.

It was mysterious and eerie and the relentless fog lent a kind of drama to the aloneness that first year in Floyd County living, just me and the cat, on Walnut Knob, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I especially remember the disembodied language of a flock of Ravens roosting in the invisible trees a few hundred feet into the milky distance. This morning, it is the crows, in the same opaque beyond that ear can cross but eye cannot.

This is the first of its kind since moving here ten weeks ago from a valley cleft where fog “up top” was a surprise as we reached the pavement less than 2 miles but more than 500 feet above the creeks where we lived.

We’ve had fog other mornings here, but this one has drenched everything on the porch all around.

It is as if the entire outside world has been silently powerwashed by a superwet aerosol that reaches anywhere there is air. Everything still remaining from the move that had not found place inside is now very wet, outside. This includes stuff we had felt certain would stay dry under the porch roof.

This, and the coming of the Winds, we must prepare for, plus those vagaries of nature we can only know by surviving them this first year.

Meanwhile…

It’s a start. I’ll create a partition to separate new from aged organic matter. The pine tree under a powerline clearing must go. The small fenced area contains Jerusalem Artichokes. Deer love ’em but can’t have ’em.

We now have a place to put coffee grounds, apple peels, corn shucks and such that, regrettably, we have been sending to the landfill until now. I took three more-or-less equal sized pallets and wired them together to form three sides of a cubicle to contain vegetable scraps and yard waste plus topsoil, browns and greens laid down towards next years REAL garden.

We had eight 8’x4′ cattle panels and lots of T-posts for this year’s 8×24′ space, then added a bit for gifted raspberries. Come spring, this year’s sod will be ready for direct planting inside a sturdy fence–design yet to come to mind.

This year’s pitiful little space is making us ‘maters, in a fraction of what next year’s first real effort will encompass. We’ve mulched the full intended dimensions ()24′ x 32’) with hay from a busted bale over against the edge of the pasture.

And little by little, we’re learning to live here.

Simple Pleasures

We had 3 widely-spaced friends (read that as you will) over for a porch visit yesterday evening to become reacquainted as the good friends we had been before covid. And what we rediscovered was how interesting ORDINARY used to be, full of simple pleasures.

As we sat and chatted, a deer approached within 30 feet of the porch and positioned herself under our one apple tree. She is a regular there. She will be back. So we named her Gala. She’s back this morning, I see.

The storm I dreaded might spoil our porch time (and the grilled chicken) never came. But the clouds piled up in interesting shapes. Pareidolia Party, anyone? And as the sun went low, a bright prism popped up: Sundog! I declared. What? they said?

I thought everybody knew sundogs. They are formed from sunlight shining through a gently-settling layer of “diamond dust” way up, bending the light exactly to a pair of focal points 22 arc degrees to either side of the sun. Why sundogs? Why not sun-cats? Because they “dog” or track the sun. Maybe? Parahelion is another name.

A lone-wolf sundog, west of Floyd

Then, out of nowhere around 6pm appeared a gazillion “blind mosquitoes” rising and falling in dense clouds against the dark woods, moving like wraiths of fog, slowly northward. It was a midge orgy. If you’ve missed this experience: congrats.

Midges are spindly weak-flying insects (they are not flies, not gnats, not mosquitoes) that start life in water, some species as “bloodworms” and are important food for dragonflies, bats, water beetles. Not so good for windshields.

I suspect our swarm of the hour emerged from a marshy section of Dodd Creek that passes under the hardtop, a half mile from here. They used to arise by the thousands out of Goose Creek, fifty feet from the house. Not our favorite natural happening.

Final zoology note: Turns out that a midge is the largest land animal in Antarctica. So we don’t recommend stopping at the Greater Antarctic Petting Zoo when you’re in the area. You’ll be disappointed.

On Seeing Things

When is the last time you stretched out on your back under a sky full of clouds?

Your mind literally cannot help but make sense of the seemingly random balloonings or smears or pulled threads of clouds. It is what minds do—create order from patterns that our eye and mind can’t help but look for.

Seeing shapes in billowing clouds or ceiling tiles was once thought to be a kind of madness.

But on looking again at pareidolia, it just may have something to teach us about creativity.

See faces in the clouds? It might be a sign of your creativity

I was reminded of this a few days back (before the near-strike of lightning at the house) when we saw a series of towering “cumulonimbus incus” clouds commonly known as Anvil Clouds of anvil-tops—a name derived from the flattened upper reaches where the air has hit the “cap” of the atmosphere and goes OUT instead of UP.

In the coming weeks, I will try to post some cloud pix, and you can import them and show us the things you see. We can compare notes, and see which one of us is the craziest. I did this to a cloud shot in the first year of blogging (2002) and titled it “The Hand of God reaches down and touches the face of….a poodle.” Guess you had to be there.

About anvil clouds so you can be alert that these things can cause mischief:

A cumulonimbus incus is a mature thunderstorm cloud generating many dangerous elements.

  • Lightning; this storm cloud is capable of producing bursts of cloud to ground lightning.
  • Hail; hailstones may fall from this cloud if it’s a highly unstable environment (which favors a more vigorous storm updraft).
  • Heavy rain; this cloud may drop several inches of rain in a short amount of time. This can cause flash flooding.
  • Strong wind; gale-force winds from a downburst may occur under this cloud.
  • Tornadoes; in severe cases (most commonly with supercells), it can produce tornadoes.

Enter, February: and Then…

Last day of January. A month from now, early March and expectation of a blooming thing. And mud. I will not miss the mud. But I will miss the buds–especially later in March the pinking up of the maple buds, at first just visible in just the right light, early or late, when the reds of morning or evening sun hit the ridges. How that bit of color lifts my spirits after the monochrome of winter!

By then, the sun rises sooner and sets noticeably later, and on the longest day of 2020, we will own RHC. Will we by then live there and someone else live at GCK–in this very room where I sit listening to the ticking of the wood stove, through whose glass doors I see the light flickering off the cat, draped out like an accent of farmhouse decor in its warmth.

We are relinquishing the sense (the illusion) of permanence, of predictability of what happens in a week or a month, living with the risk every day that strangers will come, will purchase our roots out from under us, our foundation, our bedrock routines and habits and familiar navigation in time and space in this place.

And odder, that we want this to happen, that it must happen, given the course we have set for ourselves, dictated by the ticking of the clock, the passing of the seasons through our minds and bodies, leaving less and less to work with as the sand falls through the hourglass. And yet, there is sand left.

I am uncertain. Will it make leaving that last day harder or easier to hold up each view, each memory from the well-traveled places we have sat or stood or walked, of each room in the house, the windows from them that have been like dioramas to the seasons–not just anywhere but the seasons through that window of this house in this lifetime. My life time. Our life time. Should I stand and look again, and remember or walk past, on task and on time for what the move requires of me that moment? How stoic or nostalgic should one be just now?

All this self-absorbed perseveration in my morning pages about the move makes it seem like my life is lopsided and out of balance; like I am obsessing about this imminent transition of necessity ahead of us. And yes, the details, the moving parts require much thinking and deciding and planning.

But my days of late have assumed a better balance, everything inside being in its place now and the only thing to do, at least today, is wait for a showing, and go from there. The house is in order, and the yard, and the details of the sale. And so my own peculiar interests have come back in view, and I make occasional progress digging deeper in one or another subjects that I want or need to know more about. Life is rich. In predictable and irregular spurts.

And I have a new minor and regular duty: to write an occasional column for the Floyd Press. Again. I had a bimonthly column there for 7 years, ending in 2011. The new editor has been in touch, and is lining up a list of writers who have stated a wish to contribute within their interest and knowledge areas, and that will begin soon. I suppose my general topic area is sustainability — which can be very broad indeed. And so I have folder started for FPress Brainstorming. And as it was before, it will not be difficult to create a list of things I want to dig deeper into and now have an excuse to do so.

But with my more private writing, I am trying not to think about an audience for this or any other text just now, and have lowered the threshold and will just put it in a public place–like I have done since 2002–and be glad to share the journey with a very few. I have met so many wonderful people over the years, by simply being honest and transparent and interested in knowing myself better, and others, through words and pixels.

An Even Slower Road Home

So VDOT got a late start on this project, supposed to have begun last Monday. (And work will NOT be finished until at least July 22 or 23.)

The foreman realized how bad things really were, and instead of the single pipe with a 4 inch concrete cap, he decided this replacement needed two pipes and an 8 inch cap.

You can see they’ve dammed the creek upstream and are sending the water via a large-diameter flexible hose–like a firehose–back into the creek bed downstream of the construction.

So we’re hoping for no frog-chokers until this work is set in stone. To which, by the way, I might have a hard time not adding a short, pithy quote while the concrete is still wet after the pouring is over and the work day has ended.

So what should it be?

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Isaac Newton

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

“Two roads diverged in the woods, and I took the one less traveled by. And ended up on Goose Creek.” Fred First