Zeus in the form of a cloud.

June 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm (books, quotations, the gods, the sky gods)

I spent this morning in the company of The Cloudspotter’s Guide, which I’m only getting to now, approximately four years after I was made aware of the fact that I’d quite like it. Reading the chapter on cumulonimbus clouds, I idly wondered what an approaching storm of that type might look like. My apologies to my city; such thoughts are dangerous.

I was biking home from the market a few hours ago, vaguely considering riding a bit out of my way to explore a garden shop I’d not visited before. But the sky seemed to be darkening, and I thought it best to return home. Turning onto my block I saw the first line of lightning, but all was still dry.

The raindrops began to fall as I lifted my bicycle inside and pulled the door shut behind me. Not a minute later the trees were bent by the wind, their branches flailing as if fending off an attack. The rain came next in terrible waves, and my windows shook with the onslaught of hail. The wind pressed at my door, driving in the rain beneath it: it crept into my house, making its way halfway across the room. The pretty girl with whom I live and I joked that it was like a Hitchcock film, all subtly threatening incursions of nature and unresolved homosexual plots. We were certain that we’d be slowly drowned.

The book indicated that unless one is at some distance, one can only know the shapeless black covering of the cumulonimbus by its sudden violence, by rain and hail and noise. Quite so. It also states that the Japanese god Raiden, the god of thunder and lightning, prefers to feast on human navels, and that Japanese children cover theirs with their hands upon hearing thunder. A wise precaution, certainly, and one that I intend to adopt. How my navel, of which I happen to be quite fond, lasted as long as it did without such safeguards is certainly only a matter of luck and rigourous personal shielding of a more general nature.

I may have to look into the referenced book, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, by  William Rankin, the only pilot to survive falling through the entirety of a cumulonimbus cloud. His engine died while attempting to fly over a storm in 1959. His recollections of his suffering at the hands of the sky gods are magnificent and beautiful.

This was nature’s bedlam… an ugly black cage of screaming, violent, fanatical lunatics… beating me with big flat sticks, roaring at me, screeching, trying to crush me or rip me with their hands… I didn’t hear the thunder… I felt it.

My full admiration goes to those who have fought the gods and survived, but, as for me, if I take on a storm like a mad old Lear, I don’t see the thing as a true antagonist. I might feel differently if I ever get so close to one as that. The storm gods are trusted friends, rather, of the sort that will let you wrestle them when your fury has grown too impotent and must be released with shouting, with a good friendly fight. They’re good enough to give me something against which I can struggle and press, to play their role in crashing and irreversible rituals. The sky gods feel too distant for me to know them properly, but I long for them. I embrace them, then, when they come nearer to my low realm.

A diversion: while writing this, I went to sit outside on my steps and watch the sky. It cleared almost immediately after the storm, and the sun is looking undaunted and annoyingly self-assured. The debris of felled branches and leaves are everywhere, and I’m afraid to check on the state of my garden. A half-blind grey cat was watching me. My neighbourhood is owned by its strays: there are more of them than us by far, and only they know the secrets of this place. This one was only barely more than a kitten, or perhaps it was hungry too much when it was young. One eye was a curious pale green, a setting for a line of onyx, and the other a shocking but useless blue, like labradorite held to the light just so, and an old scar ruined it. It was too affectionate for a stray. If I stopped giving it my attention, it reached up with its paws to embrace my wrist. I could feel its claws, but it was such a gentle thing. For which of the gods are you named, blind little cat? Odin? Bowie? Are you always page to the storm? One eye for the lightning, one eye for the rain? Be safe, little thing, and be well.

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