Sunday, October 09, 2005
“Hey dada, you can touch a cloud if you come out on the deck, c’mon out dad. You can write anytime, but when’s the last time you touched a cloud?”
There were many reasons to sit where I was when Robert shouted the cloud touching challenge to me. The main one was finishing the speech I was putting together for my retreat with Anne Gottlieb. I was determined to get it down because I still had to memorize it, put it on index cards and then make it sound as ‘natural’ as possible.
How the hell can you beat cloud touching for something natural?
I got my ass up and walked over to the door. Looking out I could see why he was so excited and I was warmed that he is still young enough to be so enchanted at something like a cloud.
The four of us stood out on the deck overlooking a long ski run here at Wintergreen Resort. The elevation is three thousand feet up. Driving down from Charlottesville we were enthralled by seeing mountain tops wreathed by clouds. Robert kept talking about how his buddy Andrew touched a cloud. Andrew’s dad is from Guatemala and his uncle’s house is high in the mountains there. Once on a visit there Andrew said he touched a cloud.
“I can’t touch it, why can’t I touch it? I’m not big enough!” Esther was watching us as we stood in the enveloping cloud that had rolled over the ski lift, obscuring what we had clearly seen less than thirty minutes before as we checked the condo out after dropping our bags in the doorway. The three of us were definitely touching the cloud. She walked around us, mystified by our happiness.
“Why can’t I touch it, dada? Almost crying now, frustrated as each of us were dancing around in the mist. The deck was vibrating from our stamping feet and the trees near us were becoming lost in the fog-like apparition descending over us.
“Here Polly, I’ll lift you up into the cloud and you can touch it. Hold your arms out. Do you feel the little wet kisses on them?
Esther reached her arms out, tilted her head back and closed her eyes. Sheila and Robert quietly walked over to her and watched, waiting for her reaction. She opened her eyes.
“Yea, daddy, the cloud’s kissing me all on my arms and face. I feel it touching me.” She smiled, happy to be a part of what was going on, happy to be touching the cloud. I suspect this will be the moment she remembers more than being at Monticello, more than seeing the many valleys on the drive along the ridge of the mountains. She may remember the pool at the hotel in Charlottesville; both children seem to fixate on hotel pools and can recite them when we talk about the places we’ve visited.
There’s not a lot about being away from ‘home’ that I really like. I guess the adventure of going to Copenhagen and my trips to San Francisco are exceptions. Until I bought a lap top and discovered the greatest invention of the internet age-WiFi-traveling was like being cut off from my life-line. I love the connections I have with people all over the world. I can move around the globe without leaving my room.
But I doubt I could ever touch a cloud there. I couldn’t even imagine it there. And I sure couldn’t see the look on Esther’s face when she felt the cloud kissing her. Maybe enchantment is contagious, I hope it is.
When we left Annandale the other day all of us were in a wicked mood, by the time we reached Charlottesville we were better as the rain that had been with us for the first hour of the trip had stopped and we could see the mountains running along the highway. We found the Children’s Discovery Museum in Charlottesville, explored it and part of Charlottesville, checked into our hotel, went to dinner ( I had a huge fillet at this place, screw the cholesterol concerns!), and hit the pool when we got back to the hotel.
Smiles were on our faces.
We met some interesting people in line for the tour of Monticello; saw some interesting things in the house. Our guide was pleased that I could answer her harder questions about Jefferson, his neighbor Madison, and John Adams.
I was pleased that the foundation that runs the place has finally acknowledged Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings and the fact that there was issue from that relationship. I love seeing the cracks in white folk’s hypocrisy.
Sheila thanked me for going on the tour with them. She has a strong sense of my feelings about the passing the buck the Founding Fathers pulled off by not dealing with the un-godly institution of slavery. Jefferson later wrote of how he trembled at the thought of a just God when he considered the issue of slavery…
Tomorrow we’ll find more interesting places to visit, more mountains to climb. We’ll meet people from around the country and many from right here in the hills of western Virginia. I remind myself that most of these locals are descended from people that didn’t own slaves. At the same time I’m appalled that their ancestors proudly fought for Virginia’s slave holding class.
America, forged by noble words written by landowning white men who extolled freedom for themselves but not women, blacks, or poor people, to say nothing of their lack of consideration for indigenous people, yet managed to put together a governing document that is open to growth. Ol’ Red probably has smiles on his face watching us today. He’d probably remind us that the Constitution only provides us a form for the freedoms accorded us. His Declaration of Independence outlines things inalienable to us. As a boy he probably touched clouds when he was growing up at the foot of Monticello and climbing it with his friends.