The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
Clouds as Propellers
You know what clouds are. If someone asks you, you would have the nerve to stand there and explain the whole thing. With your hands in the air, swinging here and there, waving up as vapour, flickering down as rain. But imagine having to explain the clouds business to someone who has never seen one.
 It is not easy.

 First you need to imagine someone who has never seen a cloud. If you can do so, you are pretty much ahead.
 It’s not easy, because there are clouds everywhere, here and on other planets as well. And there are clouds of purple and red and ultramarine stardust, orbiting, travelling, gather in magnetic storms millions of light years in the past and there will be in the future as well. And if you are looking for someone who has never seen a cloud before would be better not to look in the arrow of time, there, there are clouds too. And there are clouds of gas and clouds of thoughts. And perhaps the only ones who have never seen a cloud before must be them, yes, the clouds knowing nothing of themselves.
 Well, what are the clouds?
 The clouds are clouds. Particles of hydrogen and oxygen getting together around some salt or dust or who knows what else. And this colony of things floats, hovers and travels up in the sky. What is the sky? That blue thing there which unfortunately today is spotless blue.

 Clouds are clouds even when they are all different, and if you look hard enough in your head, you'll find one of a certain shape, and if you insist there are many more.
 The sheep clouds for example, or those big and majestic mountains, or thin ones, or lonely ones, or those that seem like bridal veils. The sky veiled like a bride.
 Clouds are white, red and purple in the sunset, azure at the dawn, grey at night, and sometimes they are just whatever color they prefer, even electric green or boisterous rainbow. Sometimes they are like curtains, and when a cloud looks like a curtain, it gets so high that it makes you feel how deep this thing we call the sky is.
 And there are clouds so voluminous that you may wonder what is hidden inside, and clouds so voluptuous and thick and firm that you may believe you could stand on them as on a mountain.

 And all of these clouds are nothing if you don’t say how they appear here and there, without warning, without a reason that’s easy to understand, and how they change and how they disappear. How a lamb melts into a bridal veil or evaporates into the pink incandescent sky of the evening.
 And all this vanishing and appearing and vanishing means nothing if you do not say that it goes with the wind, and the pressure, and the heat. And you should not forget to say that as the clouds go fast or slow in front of our eyes, or like cold shadows on our skin, they are not the same clouds. They are not the same, yet we still call them clouds.
 And in whichever way all the clouds float, some are soaked in water and others are crystals. Real dry, cold crystals. Things that go crick crack when you pass through them.
 And for someone who has never seen a cloud, it could be very much of a shock to know that a bird can fly easily through one, but the light can’t.

 And even if you explain the consistency of the inconsistency of clouds, you still haven’t said anything if you don’t talk about how things return like vapor, how vapor rises with heat and changes into water when it cools down, and how water changes into crystals when it freezes, and how all of this is fast and violent, even if the snow falls so slowly sometimes.

 And while you are there, with your fingers going like that in small slow vortex, how will you explain that even the snow is a cloud?
 And what will you do with your hands to explain the rain? And what sounds will your mouth make for the sound of the rain in a forest? Will you go Frrr frrush frrr? And what words you will chose for the rain that falls in the hot summer, that rain that you see falling from the sky and that suddenly evaporates and disappears before touching the ground? Have you ever seen this? It is rain that does not care at all about your grapevines that are drying dead.
 And then we had to tell of storms, and of grey dark blue gravid clouds that frighten dogs, and of thunder that frightens beasts and men without willing to, because clouds, rain and snow do not know what they do.

 And again you should mention here that even these clouds that gather together in an unbearable vortex are the same clouds that were just lambs and bridal veil the early morning. Same but not the same, because the clouds do not last. Even that cloud up there, if you follow it all the time it’s not the same now, and it is not the same now either, it just does not last. Its parts are always new, and that’s why it is always the first time you see it.
 And when you say all of this, or even if you try, without getting into it as much as I do, without as much bite, even if you say the half of this, a doubt would appear at the end on your lips, a question; the same one I asked myself.
 Why must the metaphor of life be the river?
 But don’t worry; this question is only our question. To someone who has never seen a cloud, it wouldn’t really matter.