Post #45: Sfumato

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I fell in love with a book. And through that book, I fell in love with the world.

It was a gentle summer city night. City dark isn’t really dark at all but actually more of a sfumato, mysterious, entrancing, and lit by the soft buzzy glow of streetlamps. The Strand, that warm and inviting forest of books, beckoned and as always I was enraptured and ensnared.

It was in the relative gloom of the subterranean levels that I found it.

The cover, pedestrian. The title, bland. The book, heavy and ponderous.

The Green Treasury

I wanted it.  And so I bought it.


I live in a lovely, idealized checkerboard world, each precision piece in place. No moves without proper consideration.   Squared up, spruced up lawns all mowed to a brush cut precision. Color-coordinated flowers and precise, paint by the number backyards. Double jumping is frowned upon.

What is there wild and wondrous to see here? Nothing, I am certain. So I curl up inside and allow the pages of my book to cleave open a view to magnificent, pulsing worlds, from the rainforests of Peru to the gardens of Japan, from the mountains of the Sierra to the marshes of England.

*John Muir clings to a branch to ride out a windstorm in the forests of California.

*William Henry Hudson dreams of thistle down on the South American Pampas.

*Richard Jeffries wanders the still wild natural world at the doorstep of London.

*Gilbert White listens to the sound of crickets in Hampshire.

*Theodora Stanwell-Fletcher hears the calls of the wolves in remote British Columbia.

I want it. I want it all. I want it desperately. But there is nothing to see here.


On Sunday afternoon I glance out the kitchen window and spot a dense and ponderous sky above. At last! I pry myself out of the house, and wedge myself in a corner of the porch. Glass of wine in hand, I am ready for the show.

The air is moist and anticipatory and the charcoal clouds are thick and wooly, so low I feel as if I could hold them, squeeze them. If I did, would it open a deluge, a spray or spill?

Nothing is moving. Or is it? The wind is coming in gulps and sighs, shaking the branches and the leaves like row after row of beaded curtains, like a hula dancer’s hips, like so many maracas in a mariachi band.

The branches jitter and twitch, anticipating the thrum of the rainfall to come.

But not yet! The clouds bend and curl through the sky, a long twist of old movie film, a wordless soliloquy, coiling above. Suddenly, the wind exults and breaks free like a mass of children released from a day of school, with a power that makes ripples through the grass and re-parts my hair.

It’s time! I am so ready for the rain; eyes squeezed shut, face turned upward. But it doesn’t happen. Instead I feel warmth on my cheeks. Instead, the sun cleaved through he cloud cover. The blast of wind is now a mere breeze.

I catch my breath.

I sit very still, here, in the place I was certain there was nothing of interest to see, nothing to feel, nothing to experience. I am wrong. Here it is. The sky has come to me. Or perhaps I’m just ready to see it.

“There is no need for a faraway fairyland, for the earth is a mystery before us.”

–William T. Davis

But of course.

And at last I too am caught up and embraced by the sfumato of the clouds, right here, right outside my own doorway.


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