“We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings--many of them not so much.”

-John Muir




CLOUDS • We are fortunate to possess a kind of Domesday Book for the cloud population in the summer of 1869 in the California Sierra.

On June 12 of that year, John Muir noted from the North Fork of the Merced River: “Cumuli rising to the eastward. How beautiful their pearly bosses! How well they harmonize with the upswelling rocks beneath them! Mountain of the sky, solid-looking, finely sculptured…”

On June 21, he recorded a well-defined cloud: “a solitary white mountain… enriched with sunshine and shade.”

Crisp, rock-looking clouds appeared on July 2: “keenest in outline I ever saw.”

On July 23: “What can poor mortals say about clouds?” While people describe them, they vanish. “Nevertheless, these fleeting sky mountains are as substantial and significant as the more lasting upheavals of granite beneath them. Both alike are built up and die, and in God’s calendar, difference of duration is nothing.”

We who missed witnessing them are yet certain that on August 26, 1869, at Tuolomne meadow, clouds occupied about 15 percent of the sky at noon. At evening, “large picturesque clouds, craggy like rocks,” piled on Mount Dana, clouds “reddish in color like the mountain itself.”

September 8: A few clouds drifted around the peaks “as if looking for work.”

-Annie Dillard quoting John Muir


. o O o .


CLOUDS • Digging through layers of books yields dated clouds and near clouds. Why seek dated clouds? Why save a letter, take a snapshot, write a memoir, carve a tombstone?

-Annie Dillard