On a clear late summer night, the woman sat on the edge of a field outside of town to watch the moon rise. In another age, she would have been known as a seer among her people. But times have changed and there’s no demand for seers anymore. Instead, she spends her days performing the dull, essential tasks that modern life demands of all of us. She has sought out a place as far from the city’s light pollution as she can get to, but she knows there’s a great deal she cannot see. What she sees is a shadow of what it was when she was a child, far from any city, watching the heavens traverse the sky above her.
When she was young, she had found it a bit spooky to think that the beauty of a heavenly parade had taken place night after night long before there was any human present to appreciate it. And it would continue after humanity was gone. It is hard for a child to imagine a world which existed before their arrival and would continue after they had departed again. But watching those stars as an interloper just passing through helped the woman make peace with the fact that the world was not for her. It has an existence all its own.
The moon rose full and bright while the woman watched. It climbed higher into the sky and illuminated the only bank of clouds in the sky. When the thin clouds passed directly in front of the moon, the woman caught sight of two angels who appeared to be carrying the bright orb of the moon between them. She watched as one angel became an eagle. And the other eventually morphed into a serpent opposite a lion.
For a few moments, an array of creatures made their presence in the cloud known. The woman was so caught up in the display that it came as a surprise when the clouds began drifting away. Soon the sky would be entirely clear.
She had looked deep into the cloud and been absorbed in the secret life it carried with it. She knew she would soon enough forget the details of this cloud – one of many she has loved. But for a few minutes, that cloud had been her world.
The woman was no primitive. She knew that this was just a trick a person’s brain played – seeing faces on the moon and angels in the clouds. God wasn’t sitting around shaping clouds to send her messages.
She understood this, but she never quite understood why this made the reality of it any less wonderous. That she had a brain which played such a trick. And that something as simple as a cloud could make that happen seemed amazing in and of itself. The fact that sometimes her seer’s heart could find meaning in the convergence between the tricks of her brain and the randomness of a cloud just made it all the more magic to her.
With her beloved cloud moving and and the chill of the night breeze picking up, the woman packed up her seat to return to the house where her children were sleeping. Soon she would be asleep as well. In another time, her seer’s dreams would have been seen as valuable and sought-after. But we don’t live in those times. Dreams, like the visions in the clouds, are nothing but more tricks of the brain. And what could be the wonder in that?
*Pareidolia is the technical term for our tendency to see faces or other known things in random things like clouds.