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Shapes In The Clouds:

Loss of Enchantment, Return To Wonder

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

“I cannot believe it, I was seeing shapes in the clouds just now!,” my dear friend Daniel breathlessly exclaimed.  He had a rare tear in his eye, admitting to me “It has been so very long, since I have seen shapes in the clouds…”


To a young child, the world and everything in it almost invariably appears as alive, meaningful and story filled, a matrix of shifting patterns that are constantly revealing new compositions and juxtapositions, songs and designs, whisperings in tree boughs and soft white dragons floating across bright blue skies.  It is only through the programming of disenchanting, conformist public schools and appearance and money focused television that a youngster slowly ripped away from this essential view of reality as wonderfully mysterious, magical and miraculous, conscious and communicative.  A toddler can often be seen staring intently at a flower-licking butterfly, awestruck at a flash of lightning, or tripping-out on something as commonplace as the intersecting circles created by raindrops falling on a puddle in the yard, or fascinated by the intricate weave of their clothes as seen really, really close up.  What a terrible tragedy, when a child gets to a stage of acting like a common acculturated adult, no longer trusting that there is real magic outside of a movie’s special effects, unable to believe in their own capacities to be heroes and heras, wizards or healers participating in a most-purposeful destiny.  How sad to see someone who is running to get out of the rain, oblivious to the puddle’s patterns, unmindful of the shapes and faces formed by the dense clouds overhead.   How do we know when a society, a culture, is impoverished, un-moored, lost to its highest purpose?  When under any conditions, we can go through the years of our life without being captivated by the creations that wind and cloud do make.

What is it, that can stand in the way of our view, of the enchanted view of life unfolding?  What preoccupations and distractions, what prejudices and fears, what habits?  A hurried lifestyle, maybe, no time to look anywhere but directly ahead.  Being self conscious about our engagement and amazement, worried about being seen gazing for long minutes at the sunlit veins in a fallen leaf.  Feeling unworthy of leisure and undeserving of beauty.  Being a “hardened man” or a “career woman”.  Abuse that may have shut us down in this and other ways. Residing mainly in our heads, and thus simply missing, missing, and missing things again.  Or perhaps a soul stifling job or disingenuous or unhealthy marriage, that drapes a heavy wet blanket over every light and spark.

Sometimes it is several of the above, and so it was for the 30-plus year old Daniel, ally of and number-one aide to the Anima Sanctuary.  First, an emotional shutting down as a child, that he is only now overcoming.  Then, the distractions of partying as a teen, the necessity of a job, the responsibilities of becoming a father, and the oppressiveness of a relationship with the mother of that child that for whatever reasons seemed to suck the very air and spirit out of him, draining his creative batteries, sending him ever further into the refuge of silence and withdrawal and his own solitary thoughts.  Only now, hurting from negotiations over child custody but relieved of his relationship, is he finding the world wholly fascinating again.  It is this possibility of lifelong excitement and awe, this insistent joy, that he hopes to ensure in his daughter.

“Will you look at that,” he says, pointing at the clouds over our canyon, a huge smile back on his face… and I gladly turn to see.


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December 2012

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