One Mind Two Answers
School has begun, and we (my 31 students and I) are making our way into “Walking.” Yesterday, after digesting Thoreau’s criteria for a walk, we set out; we didn’t go far. Confined both by a class period and the Sudbury River, we reached and then lolled some on the grass near its banks. There, we spent ten minutes watching the day’s open sky. Here’s what appeared:
Across the blue slate of this day
nothing is written
until a wisp of white
and then tendrils appear
and the everbusy mind begins
its search for shape, begins
to imagine symbols – it looks
Blue again only blue, which –
give it its due – is
Here we are. I’ve tracked down John Pickle, our school’s meteorologist and weather-savant, and we are in the parking lot where I am describing the cloud phenomenon that four or five of us saw while sky-watching (surely a form of reading) in class. “Clear blue sky,” I say. “Cloudless. And then, as we watched, a wisp cloud, a rumor of cumulus or a scintilla of cirrus, appeared. For 30 seconds or so, it grew. Then, perceptibly, it began to fade, until 30 or so seconds later it was gone, and the sky was pure blue again. This happened three times that I saw.
“John,” I say, “What happened?”
“O,” he says, “here’s what happened. The air you were watching hit a rise; it lifted. And, as it did, it cooled, and the water in the air condensed, and a cloud began to form. But then, that air sank again, and, as it did, it warmed, and the cloud vanished.”
John is as excited by his explanation of the variability of clouds as I am by the way things materialize and then vanish; together, in this parking-lot conversation, we represent aspects of the mind that Henry Thoreau worked to yoke to his purpose to know the world.