There are two moments of glory in the skies over Salies: one is at sunset and the other at sunrise. In the first the clouds –there are always clouds in my skies now- are tinged with pink and red and orange and gold; in the second they take on a grey –gold glow. On the hillside I overlook from my eastern window, there is a handful of mist entangled in the trees… or is it smoke. In the heavy, cold, crisp air of morning it is hard to tell for there is no movement to give it away.
Clouds are actually new phenomena in my field of attention. Not that they didn’t exist, say, in Mexico where I lived for fifty years, but somehow they had not come to my attention except, perhaps, when they announced a storm brewing and therefore threatened some planned activity. It actually wasn’t till Madrid that I began noticing clouds precisely because there were none. Most days the unending blue slate of Madrid sky stretched above from horizon to horizon; a cloud was an exception and therefore noticed; a cloudy day could be celebrated.
So when I came to Salies and began seeing that clouds, infinite in their variety, jaded in their coloring, were part of the landscape or better said, the skyscape itself, I began noticing them. I noticed how they were never the same, seldom still, shifting, flowing, breaking up… In Madrid, now I remember, there were occasions when the morning would bring a few white puffs of clouds that would quickly evaporate before one’s eyes. I would watch them, while I was in the park walking with Salomé or during the Chi Kung session. Here in France the clouds do not evaporate: they journey over the landscape, they shift, change shapes, take on different colors depending on the time of day, sometimes staying for hours, others whisking by, individual clouds, masses of clouds, I have never seen a day in Salies without a cloud. Even the bright sunny summer days will have one peeking over the horizon, awaiting evening to come out and catch the last rays of sun.
In Salies there is something else which seldom settles in Madrid and it is clearly linked to the existence of clouds: frost. For there to be frost there must be humidity and Madrid is so dry that the first year there I had to put cream on my bum because the skin started to crack. That first year I remember clearly, there were only two days when it rained. Rain in Madrid was a rare occasion and usually came in what I called “lluvia necia” or stubborn drizzle and was usually more of a light mist than even a definite drizzle. (Ahhh, as I write this morning, the sun has just cleared the “Pain de Sucre”, the hill out on to which my windows look, and begins to illuminate the tree-tops.) So even when Madrid is just as cold if not colder than Salies, there is hardly ever frost (there is no humidity to be frozen) or so little it needn’t be counted. Here the frost is a delight (as long as you cover up your windshield when leaving the car out at night). It tips and rims every leaf and branch with white as if an artist had come out at night with a tiny brush and outlined each shape individually. When contemplated from afar, the landscape has turned into a black and white photo (which has never been ‘black and white’ but differing tones of gray). Everything looks and is “crisp”. A leaf when bent will crack, and the grass upon being trod snaps and crackles. And then the sun hits, and the frost turns to dew and colors return in all their glory of greens and gold and browns and yellows. And the frost has gone. It is a magical thing, this frost, and a delight to contemplate. Sometimes on the windows of the car, individual drops of humidity will have burst into intricate lace designs, like delicate miniscule doilies spread on the dark pane.
As the sun rises higher and begins to light my window, I can see how the clouds are once again on the move, breaking up, showing each time larger glimpses of the blue sky beyond; the birds have taken to wing (although none have shown up at my feeder filled with sunflower seeds upon the instructions of my friend, Kiwi-san, who insists that I must be patient when I repeat that the feeder, on my second story window, is too high to be feeding ground for birds). Morning, as the saying goes, is upon me and I must leave these morning moments for the more active obligations of the day.