Ice Cream Castles in the Air – Robin Writes by Robin Garrison Leach

September is the best month for cloud viewing. The constant blue of summer gives way to changeable vistas in the sky. The sky is full of huge white sculptures.

When I look at them on a warm afternoon, I smile as if I see an old friend.

Finding shapes in the clouds isn’t fun on its own. It’s much more fun to share your discoveries with someone else.

When I was a little girl, my mother and I would lie in the thorny grass in late summer and imagine another world in the waves above our heads. We were falling like weary travellers, taking a break from the daily life of school and household chores.

It’s time to leave the spectacle of our colorful world and find ordinary shapes in unusual shades of white and grey.

At first, the clouds were just clouds. But in moments our eyes widened to understand the possibilities of whimsy.

In moments I saw something.

“Look! Do you see it? There!”

She turned to the sky and pushed her shoulder. Then I looked at her face, watching as her eyes scanned the sky to find the right mass of white.

“It’s a pig. Do you see it?”

She saw that. She always saw what I saw. Even when you probably don’t.

And I did the same for her.

Animals were the easiest to see, because clouds like to expand to include legs, noses, and ears. The gray edges of each wave gave our pig or puppy the possibility of depth; We traced our fingers as our creation plodded past.

The wind was impatient with us. He pushed the elephant’s trunk up and away in lazy seconds. We immediately wondered how we were able to see what we saw. But the show went on, and other figures joined the zoo.

Sailing ships. Chicken thighs. Sea monkeys. Figures kicked their legs into little footballs of fluff. There was an alternate universe of improbable fantasy life of our own design, right there above our heads.

The best clouds to watch are the massive, thick blobs that appear large enough to cover our house like a quilt. We stared at the center of each one, wondering what could be hiding within the folds and wrinkles there.

If we could flap our arms like angels and float towards it, could we climb in and around it, pushing only so far or would our toes stick out in the air?

We decided it would be like heaven.

In a few seconds, the flat-tailed beaver turned into a crab. Its jagged legs disintegrated as it floated past, becoming a shape that defied my imagination to name.

The wispy clouds of the changing weather in the coming months were less dramatic than those of September’s cloud-watching days. Lines and dotted patterns forced us to think about less obvious shapes, and their fragility reminded us that while autumn was still with us, winter was coming.

There will be clouds in winter. They were swirling ominously, slivers of gashes blocking the sun’s rays, carrying precipitation.

But those clouds, though bold in their icy austerity, did not inspire the wonder of thick pillow clouds in September.

Growing up I rarely lay in the grass and looked up. My mom’s not here to watch the clouds with me now. But often I sit, transfixed, under a sky full of clouds (blue enough for a Dutchman’s trousers, she always said) and dotted with clouds.

I search for her, within the hollow, vulnerable spaces within the great clouds, and hope to see her there – her toes wagging my way.

Robin Garrison Leach can be reached at

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