It was a lazy summer afternoon, the stifling kind that suffocates the desire to do anything. Even thinking what to do takes more effort than is worth summoning. It was a time of exquisite boredom – the type suffered by children on such a day as this in the middle of August. I don’t believe that adults have such days, or perhaps it is that they have many more important distractions to occupy them. But for us, the infinite moment of NOW can loom large and empty and static at times, leading to that most difficult of endeavors – finding something to do.
So it was an aimless energy that drew me up the hill to where my cousins lived. There were eight of them in a house that seemed to be always on the edge of chaos. There used to be six, and then the twins were born. On this day I was hoping to find Seth, the oldest. He was closest to my age, though we were not close in other ways. I guess when there are that many of you, it pays to keep as much to yourself as possible. I was just hoping he might have something interesting to offer on a stagnant day like this.
I saw him by the swing set which was near the edge of the field quite far from the house. He was sitting on one of the swing seats, twirling it til it wouldn’t go any farther and then letting go, propelling him round and round a few times. He didn’t see me right away given that he seemed to be focused on his feet or maybe his eyes were closed. In any case, I was glad for another person to share my boredom.
Hey Seth, what are you doing?
Nothing. What does it look like.
What do you want to do?
I don’t know…
Sometimes I wonder how many times we actually had this same conversation. It wasn’t a dialogue that really had a direction; it simply described the moment. It’s the moment of being where you are now and not wanting to be there. It wasn’t a desperate sense, more like a search for the right door to open. The potential for great adventure was there – we simply had to find the way in past this heavy overlay of lethargy.
I sat on the swing next to Seth and began mirroring his twirling movements. I wasn’t really trying to think of something to do, but offered an idea.
Want to ride bikes?
Down the hill to the store.
I don’t have any money; do you?
No, of course not.
I got off the swing and walked over to the thick grass nearby. The field had lots of tall grass, except the flattened areas where the deer had lain the night before. There were also wild strawberries in that field – little treasures that were usually not too difficult to find. I laid down on my back, smelling the sweet grass.
Look at the clouds up there. They’re so big and have such strange shapes. Imagine if we lived up there.
Seth came over and stretched himself out next to me, folding his arms under his head.
Yeah, I’d take that giant one over there – the one with lots of room. I’d have it all to myself. See those bulges on that side – those are the steps to go upstairs.
What’s up there?
My private room, that’s what.
Am I allowed in?
I don’t know, maybe.
Well, my cloud is over there. That’s where I live. You could visit me whenever you want. But I might not be there, because my cloud can travel really far from here.
How far would you go?
Maybe I’d go all the way to India and see the Taj Mahal or Peru and see Machu Picchu. Maybe even Easter Island to see the stone heads in the ground. Do you want to come?
I don’t think so.
That’s okay. I can tell you all about what I see and the people I meet.
I remember these times as an adult. Seth and I would lie in the tall grass and tell stories about the cloud people, who of course were always us – or who we wanted to be. Mostly I’d travel in my cloud, and he would have adventures in his. Sometimes other friends would join in, but it was Seth and I that directed the stories.
Strange now to remember how he didn’t care to travel anywhere. He was happy in his big cloud house with lots of room. Yet he was the one who traveled far away to Vietnam and then never came back.