Life among scattered clouds

Sep 18, 2021 | 3 comments

The sky thinks it has a squabble of seagulls in its sight, but then quickly realizes that this is not the coast and that these are not seabirds; this is Paute, and what is flying is a single cloud, born high in the Andes, discharged in the night, and drifting downwind from the cloud factory. The solitary steamship dreamily floats from the fjord-like valley into a knife-edge harbor of deep shade where others are certain to dock before the day warms — it begins to rain. From my vantage point I cannot tell if the sky will welcome this new mooring or if the gallant ship will be summarily warmed to vapor to feed the tender leaves of weathered trees wedged among the cliffs — my view is hidden behind a fresh flotilla of clouds as soft as moth wings.

I recently moved to Chican, a charming village overlooking the farming community of Paute. Paute was once known for the pristine roses it distributed worldwide, but the florist market collapsed and the sky was splattered with the fragrant rain of tears until the community turned its collective attention to growing herbs and vegetables to nourish the people of Cuenca and the coast. This fruitful decision was decisive in preserving the lifestyle and land of many of the deep-rooted families farming the goat-steep mountains of Paute Canton. We wish them continued good luck and a bountiful harvest.

This is not a quiet or sleepy place. Tiny villages cling to the mountains like barnacles attracted to misty seas and announce their importance with cheap 1980s style loudspeakers tied to beat up pickup trucks reminding the villagers that the co-op is working hard on their behalf and that it is time to pay your water bill — or that a gas truck will soon be following so bring out the empties and have cash in hand for refills.

I awake like clockwork to the crowing of a choir of persistent roosters; the orchestration similar to the opening cords of a Zappa composition guaranteed to be amplified as the sun rises above the grey flannel flung aside by a yawning daybreak. Pretty soon ancient and jittery mixtos will bounce in rhythm to the lumps of centuries old dirt tracks lugging farming supplies to homes and farm animals to market. I check my gas and wonder about my water…

By 6 a.m. I am at my desk tapping out stories about the goings on of yesterday and what I am looking forward to in the future. By 6:30 a.m. Clifford is sleeping at my feet and I know I’ll be staying right here for a spell, not wanting to interrupt his dreams of chasing cars, bountiful food, and knowing that he is loved. Time is like that here. The clock ticks to the same metronome of the day before, and the years before that.

In other words, this day is just another scattered among the rest.

There are moments of great clarity living in the clockworks of the cloud factory. There are times when I can see clearly for miles and miles, and other moments when I am fumbling for a semblance of light in a swirling and mysterious world of milk beaten thin. I spend most mornings trying to capture my voice on paper but I am not always successful and often return empty-handed. I am thankful for that too.

It is at this crossroads that I feel most at home.

Robert Bradley

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