Last night, when I squeezed some lotion into my palm, it looked like a perfect little alto saxophone. I made note of it, admired it, and then rubbed it in. Such a minor phenomenon (it wasn’t like I saw the face of Jesus on a tortilla or anything, after all) was forgotten until tonight, when I applied the same lotion. This time it didn’t look like a saxophone; it was more of an abstract curlicue. But that’s when I remembered the cute alto sax lying there in my hand the night before.
Seeing random musical instruments in mundane applications of lotion is oddly comforting to me. It means my imagination is at work, a very good thing for a writer to have at her disposal. The appearance of the saxophone also represents a bit of a victory to me, a recovery of some form of innocence. It just so happens that since my mom died a couple months ago, I can also see cloud pictures again. They’re effortless – obvious, in fact – but it hasn’t always been this way.
I could reliably find shapes in the clouds when I was a little girl, but then this ability ebbed. My creative mind would try to see shapes in the clouds (which was the problem, of course – that I was trying), but my overly pragmatic adult mind could only see clouds. They were gorgeous, billowing, cotton candy, pewter-shaded, rain-heavy clouds, but they were still just what they were. Clouds. Once in awhile maybe I could extrapolate popcorn pieces or a wad of cotton candy, but that was as distant an analogy as I could muster.
My inability to see shapes in the clouds left me feeling rooted, weighed down by the concrete shoes of my literal mind. Sometimes I felt like a fraud calling myself a creative person, a writer, when I could only see what was in front of me – in the minutest detail I could see it, but still without metaphor. Isn’t metaphor supposed to be second nature to a writer, an essential tool?
The other day, though, a friend changed her timeline picture on Facebook to a panoramic with billowing clouds. Plain as day, I saw a water buffalo. (I’m not sure this was the image she was hoping to display, but that’s what I saw. It couldn’t be helped.) Today, I looked up into the sky and saw two polar bears sanding up on on their haunches kissing, a stubby-tailed alligator with its jaws open wide, and the profile of a man with a suspicious-looking moustache. So it wasn’t just the isolated water buffalo incident. Something in me has shifted. I can see pictures in practically every cloud.
I’d like to draw some philosophical parallel, to find some explanation as to why this small revelation would occur now. Perhaps the recent loss of my mother has caused me to sit deeper inside myself, in a place of knowing rather than trying. Perhaps my mother’s disembodied spirit is flying around up there pointing the cloud pictures out to me, saying, “Lookit! An elephant lifting a dumbbell! Do you see it?” Perhaps handling her illness, death, and estate has left me less attached to the outcome of things and more invested in the process, which is course where cloud pictures live. They are impermanent, ever-changing, and must be enjoyed in the moment (unless captured and posted on one’s Facebook wall).
Whatever the explanation is, if there is an explanation, I’m sure I’ll never know it. But as a writer and creative person, I have to say I’m very relieved to see a seal with a whiskey bottle balanced on its nose cavorting in this afternoon’s otherwise impeccable blue sky. Very relieved indeed.