Houses sit on sloping hills.
Trees are scuffed with soft green mosses and yellow grasses tickle the thick juicy cactuses that stand as if that’s where they’ve always been – marooned on top of volcanic black soil.
Burnt orange heathers cover red ochre earth and grey charcoal stones – large, small and in between - stretch out along the shore below.
In the waters swim small brown fishes, darting amongst rocks covered with black and copper crabs, who when the sun sinks towards the ocean come together, waving their claws in the air, as if to say – “Till tomorrow, till tomorrow.”
Humans here don’t like clouds much. If they ever see one, they moan and make gestures with their hands, as if hoping that they can wipe them away like smudges on a table.
“Clouds are like scabs. I can’t wait for them to be peeled away.” One gentleman would say to himself if he ever saw them. Not knowing, (because no one knows), that high up in the sky, right there on the clouds, lives Lily.
Lily makes cloud things for the people below.
Her work goes largely ignored.
Who wants to look at a cloud anyway?
That is apart from Anam.
Anam loves looking at the things that Lily creates with cloud stuff.
And because he spends so long looking up at the sky, his mother has bought him a telescope for his birthday.
“It’s for looking at the...” but before she could finish her sentence, Anam was racing off down the hill towards the rocks near the sea, telescope in hand, Bongo his dog racing behind him, barking in delight.
Now every day Anam looks up at the sky
at night-time when the stars twinkle, Anam puts down his telescope and comes in for supper.
All Our Geese Are Swans
“Your son is odd.” Said a friend of Anam’s mother one day as they watched Anam running around on the hill with Bongo, looking up at the sky.
“Doesn’t he know that telescopes are meant for looking at the stars?”
“Doesn’t look like it, does it?” replied Anam’s mother.
Her friend couldn’t help herself – she smiled. And after a pause -
“Maybe he can see stars that we can’t?”
“Maybe!” Replied Anam’s mother.
And when they thought the other wasn’t looking, they both peeked up at the sky curious to see if they could see a star sparkling, glimmering beside the afternoon sun.
But mostly Lily and her clouds were ignored. If someone did look up at the sky and see something unusual they would turn to their friend and say “Look! What’s that in the clouds?”
And their friend would hurry off and call behind them, “Oh it’s nothing, come on, we are late for where we are meant to go!” And off they would rush leaving Lily and her cloud stuff alone.
Occasionally there would be periods when Lily went to other places and countries, traveling on the clouds, curious to see where they would take her. And then she would look down at the people below, and start playing with the cloud stuff, wondering if she would ever be seen.
But no one anywhere was as curious and attentive as Anam.
And even though it filled her little heart with joy to see how quickly he searched for her, she couldn’t help but grow sad, as most below ignored her, not even knowing she was there.
And so her messages began to get a little more infrequent. A little more irregular. And in her sadness she grew lonely, eventually losing the will to jump from a cloud just before it dissolved completely. As it was important to do.
And so one day when the cloud that she was on dissolved, Lily fell through the skies, plummeting to the ocean beneath her, where with hardly a splash she sank through the waters, sinking to the deepest darkest depths below.
“Lily!” Called Anam desperately. “Lily!”
And Bongo barked frantically sensing the sadness of his human. And so he began to howl and was soon joined by the other dogs on the island, as they wailed to the empty skies.
“Must be something in the air.” More then one human muttered as way of explaining away the call of the dogs.
Not knowing how right they were!
But where Lily was, no sound from above could be heard. And as she landed on the bed of sand, she stood up and looked up her watery ceiling. Used to looking down, her neck creaked slightly.
With bubbles floating out of her mouth, she quickly grew accustomed to this new way of breathing. Taking a few steps forward, a few steps back. Noticing how the view above remained the same for she was so far below in the deepest part of the ocean, that the space around her seemed as large as the sky. Infinite. Never ending. It reminded her of home, allowing her to relax.
“I shall never sit on those clouds again.” She whispered to herself. For for a girl of her size, once down, it would be impossible to come back up. In fact it would be most dangerous. And so Lily accepted her fate. Quicker perhaps then most.
But Anam was very sad and not even his canine friend could make him smile. (And he could always make him smile). So he spent all day swimming in the ocean, or going out with his uncle in his old motor-boat, looking for Lily, pointing his telescope through the waters, where he would peer and squint to try and find her – the girl who had lived in the clouds. And when night came and the stars shone across the skies, Anam would put his telescope down and forlornly walk back home.
“Will I ever find her?”
"Under the sea....life is sweet here, we got the beat here...We got the spirit, you got to hear it, under the sea." Sebastian - A Little Mermaid
Then one day, when he had all but given up hope, Anam heard a delicious sound: Lily laughing. And he stood up so very quickly in the boat, causing it to rock slightly. Taking out his telescope he dipped it into the ocean to point it far below.
And there he saw Lily, laughing and swimming alongside her new friends the squids and the sharks, the angel fish and the phospherence. All the great and small beasts that swim in those depths below. And he watched his friend so very far away and knew that this was her home.
But even though he knew this, a part of him did not want to accept it.
“Maybe a great current will come and sweep her back up to the surface.” He whispered to Bongo that night. And Bongo looked at Anam, an expression on his face that made Anam close his eyes.
And because his uncle was a generous man, he continued to let his nephew come out on the boat with him every day. For he loved the oceans and relished any excuse to travel out over them.
So Anam spent his days peering to the bottom of the ocean with his telescope whilst Bongo lay in the shade under the taurplin. For the days were hot and though Bongo liked to watch the leaping fish and the dolphins, the sound of the water lapping against the boat would soon lull him off into deep tranquil snoozes.
And whilst Bongo snoozed, Anam would watch his friend Lily as she played around with the seaweed making things for her friends, the beings of the depths below. And unlike up above in the clouds and down below with the humans, every time the sea creatures saw Lily making something they would stop and watch her intently.
“What will she make today?”
One day Anam was watching as Lily was making something for passing sting rays who were waiting nearby. For a moment Lily stopped and looked up. Up through the ocean’s waters. Up through the seaweed and fish that swam around her. Lily looked up to see Anam looking down. And in that moment Anam felt what he hadn’t realised he knew. And he smiled at Lily, a smile that felt like a good-bye. And at the same time, a hello, a hello, a hello. And he sat up in the boat and turned to his uncle and said, “I believe it is time to go back home.”
When Anam returned home that night, he went into his room and placed his telescope against the wall. And there it stays like the trunk of a tree, rooted, never to be moved. Occasionally Anam will look at it, patting it fondly as he walks past, but he has not since felt the need to pick it up and point it up at the skies, or down though the waters below.
And Lily, a girl who fell from the clouds now lives in the bottom of the sea, using seaweed not cloud stuff, content in her new world below.
For all around us floats seaweed and cloud stuff - I wonder what it is that you see?
Note about the illustration
Honey Flows - Jane Lilian Vance