Forever punishing and replenishing, the magnificent clouds of Ecuador are a cloak woven of dreams
I watched quietly as the swollen Paute River carted away dirt, stone, and scoured human debris from a recent rainstorm. It was a strong reminder that the gods of Fertility and Loss, when absorbed in their enthusiasm for being unequalled, will occasionally flood villages and wash away livelihoods without regard to faith or frailty. It is a condition of living here. This would not be the place it is without the bountiful replenishment of water, and the crushing robberies of rain.
In way of compensation, the gods sent us their most trusted messengers to both warn and inspire us: they sent us clouds.
Paute often awakes under a light gray blanket of clouds. However, on mornings when it is tossed aside, a cobalt sky hoisting vast sails of rising clouds reveals an armada of majestic ships sailing a boundless sea. To match this grandeur, our earthly landscape is ribboned with golden hues of grassland and rolling rows of verdant cornfields. The river that sashays aside the town is transformed into a silvery necklace reflecting happy sunshine and cheery clouds.
And then there is this.
Some days an early morning sun will shade the dark intentions the gods are saving for the afternoon.
If you pay close attention, you can see their serfs already preparing high in the upland distance — an unruly mob cloaking themselves in charcoal gray coats of the most voluminous sort. Within an hour, they are ready to tumble down from their lair on the mountain peaks for a “rumble from the jungle.”
The first round of rolling thunder is far away, an errant ball rambling down a warped lane and of little interest. But then the atmospheric pressure drops, and the air becomes dense with impatient anticipation. The now-roiling clouds are rapidly expanding and are no longer gray. They are the color of gunmetal. And then the sky is lit with a blazon, an explosive crack of thunder that pierces the imminent deluge. The drenching is about to begin.
The thunder becomes a roll call, a drumbeat, a freight train, a furious wail insisting on domination, a grand display of biblical sovereignty demanding that all succumb to the almighty presence of unrelenting rain.
Terrified rivulets of water soon flood street corners in a panic to find the way to underground shelter. Trees and shrubbery shudder, flowers faint or bend their faces downward. Water ricochets off awnings soaking the unprotected pilgrims who desperately pray to be anywhere else.
Everyday commerce that normally thrives screeches to a state of suspended animation.
The gods prevail. They are unequalled.
And then it is over. The clouds are spent for the day. Their wrung-out cloaks are flung like uncombed wool along the jagged edge of mountain tops where the rain is brewed. What remains is exhausted water dripping from leaves and branches, posts and awnings, resting at last in cobblestone-shaped puddles reflecting the surprising light that surrounds them.
The air has freshened. The scent of flowers is again revealed. The harboring sun beckons a spinnaker of brilliant white cloud unfurling westward on an ocean of sky.
And then there is this.
Sometimes the gods don a cloak woven of dreams and reflection — a soft gauze barely discernible from forest moss, an off-white noise that soaks up everything except birdsongs and the hushing of unneeded fears.
There are mornings when the whole world (at least as far as I can see), is cuddled up in rose scented mist that is impossible to touch but grabs hold of you and keeps you in its sway.
This is the mist that churns the waterworks, squeezing it into rain destined for the rivers below, charging them to carry the burden of everything captured in its path, slow or fast, to the last port of call: the sea.
I heard something small and incessant the other evening. I thought perhaps it was a field mouse or a tiny nocturnal bird that was nudging, prodding, and probing. But it was neither a mouse nor a bird. It was rain.
My roof was leaking water that had succeeded in falling ever downward until it quenched the thirst of Mother Earth. That is what water does.
It is almost three in the morning. I am sitting at my desk, writing this story for you and listening to a tick tick tick; pinpricks of water filling a small clay bowl cradling a small rose that was placed inside to cushion the waterfall.
I heard something small and incessant. I thought perhaps it was a field mouse or a tiny nocturnal bird that was nudging, prodding, and probing. But it was neither a mouse nor a bird.
It was rain that had come to visit me.