October 28, 2005

It's clouds illusions I recall...

We had gone to visit a friend in the hospital. Since northern Arizona is a vastly spread out array of small towns, sometimes you have to go a long way to get treatment for certain health issues. His was heart trouble, so we drove an hour and a half to a town where they have a hospital that specializes in the heart. Under observation and on a variety of medications to make his arrythmia subside, his outlook from ICU was really good. This is a man in his 50’s, saying he was fine with whatever God chose to do…to take him home or leave him here. That’s awfully young for that kind of talk! I didn’t say that out loud, but it was a relief to hear him talk like that. He’s had a tough life, he talked about giving up alcohol 15 years ago and giving his life to Christ. He did a 180 from mean old drunk guy to loving, tender hearted, generous man. He said he remembers the look on the pastor’s face when he came lumbering down the isle that Sunday for the altar call. He is grateful for his life…thankful for God’s mercy and restoration. In fact, I think he encouraged us more than we did for him by coming to see him.

On the ride home, it was a cloud show day. The sky was bright blue and the clouds were big and fluffy, changing shapes faster than I could guess what they were. The first thing I noticed was the bunny running from the bear, which quickly turned into a mouse facing an elephant, who was laughing hysterically. On down the road I saw a long necked dinosaur….I can’t remember their real name, but it’s the one called a ‘long neck’ in the Land Before Time shows. It was tossing a football with a wispy teradactyl (you’ll have to forgive my shortcomings in spelling dinosaur names!) Pretty soon the long neck’s head detached and floated off….I felt like I was watching a weird Alice in Wonderland type of show. As we got closer to Flagstaff, the San Francisco Peaks loomed large in front of us…they are very tall, jagged, sharp pointy mountains rising from a flat horizon. Very cool. Over the highest peak, Mt. Humphrey’s, I noticed the strangest cloud ….it first reminded me of a halo, then distinctly turned into a sombrero, balancing on the very tip of the peak. A mountain wearing a sombrero is pretty comical, you have to agree!

There is another friend. Her husband’s mother is dying of cancer in their home. She was looking up at the ceiling the other day and my friend asked her what she was looking at. “The sky,” she said. I wonder if she is seeing her life changing and floating off into something very grand…something comforting and closer than we can see with mortal eyes. The hospice nurse told them this is common as a person is close to death. They see things that we can’t and it seems to be like gradually stepping into the afterlife.

My family’s life is changing too. My dad is moving on in his dementia and we are finding it is not going to be possible to keep him at home anymore….this is definitely life changing into unforeseeable things. Some changes are very hard. I’ve heard that the only thing we know for sure is that things never stay the same….life is about changing, moving on, learning, growing, accepting. No one can make it stop. But we can watch on and see what it changes into. Hard times are not enjoyable, but they do a good thing….they produce a great strength in us if we let it…..wisdom, endurance, patience, love….it’s all good eventually.

There is a song I love from the 60’s by Joni Mitchell about how clouds, love, and life all change around and become what they will as we stand by and watch, experiencing the new shapes and views in life. It reminded me of our friend in the hospital…I’ll bet his wife could tell a lot of ways his life changed as she was by his side observing, like watching clouds turning into new shapes. Change is okay though and if you know it’s going to happen, it can be exciting to watch and wait for….especially if it’s God who is doing the shaping. Enjoy the song. I never really paid much attention to the meaning of these poetic lyrics as a child or teenager. It was just fun to sing. Now, looking back these lyrics have some rich meaning about how life evolves. One of my favorite groups, Jars of Clay, has a song called “Ordinary Days” with a line in it, “I hope the days and clouds turn into something as they pass us by.” We usually don’t have a whole lot of control over where the days take us and what they turn into, but it’s interesting to see both sides once it has passed. (oh, the hindsight!)

Both Side Now 
Joni Mitchell

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons ev’rywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on ev’ryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev’ry fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living ev’ry day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

The Cloud Appreciation Society

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