Audria is a massage therapist and a painter. She’s well-known for her lovely cloudscapes, having studied clouds closely and painted them for years. She’s painted clouds on the ceiling of her massage room in greys, yellows, browns and blues. It’s one of the favorite moments of my month: to be on her massage table, and roll over onto my back and study her interpretation of the sky.

There seems to be no limit to the forms clouds take, particularly this time of year when they pile up for monsoons. I imagine them as shape-shifting beings that perform all manner of magic: conjuring rain and shade, just for starters.

The ones with soft-fade edges appear sweet and ethereal. The backlit ones, when the sun forms a hard, bright edge, look as solid as the chair I’m sitting on as I type these words.

My favorite clouds are the ones that reflect the color of the earth while I’m driving north through reservation lands; they’re fluffy and white on top, but the undersides are greyish, overlaid with an extraordinary pastel purplish-red.

When wildfires are burning nearby, the particulates in the air turn late afternoon clouds to warm yellows and oranges. You hate to see it, because you know what it means, but it’s beautiful anyway.

A cloudless sky can feel like an unpunctuated sentence that just goes on and on. Sometimes, just like in writing, that’s exactly what you need. Other times, the clear blue sky can make you feel like there’s nowhere to rest. The sky needs the clouds to give it shape.

Suddenly, it feels like fall and the anticipation of the seasonal darkness feels like a cloud passing between me and the sun.

I wonder if it’s the fall or The Fall. The fall of Christ, the fall from grace, falling off the edge of the earth, falling out of favor, falling off the wall like Humpty Dumpty.

But having a September birthday, fall has always been my favorite time of year. I guess that’s also a holdover from all those years as an Army brat. Every few years transferring to a new town meant moving into a new house and starting a new school. My sense of anticipation and renewal is quite the opposite, really, of autumn, when the natural world is winding down from its season of growth and preparing for hibernation and rest.

Clouds are proof, if ever proof was needed, that every thing is changing every second of every day. Because vapor has no steady form, its changeling status is obvious to even the most oblivious observer. The transformation of matter by decay and growth is just a fact, but because things appear solid and stable, we forget.

A dream: I’m in a hat shop in the basement of an old building. The lighting is rather dim, the windows are small, and the walls are old brick. In order to see myself in the various hats, I step around the corner to the mirror. After trying on several, I step back around the corner, and find that the shop is on fire, and the hats are all burning. I wake up wondering if I should be a firefighter and then realize that my brain’s just trying to show me the possibilities for and consequences of self-renewal.

I spent last weekend river-tripping through Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River above Moab. The first two days were an opportunity for me to learn to handle the oars on flat water, and on day three I rowed my first (very tiny) rapids. I found it rather like learning to drive, except the road is fluid and has its own intention. It’s what I imagine it would be like to drive on clouds.

This afternoon, feeling kind of achy and tired, I set up my camp cot in the backyard and had a drowsy nappish couple of hours. Every time I opened my eyes, the sky had a different character. Finally, I fell fast asleep, and dreamt about rowing and the wind. When I awoke, the sky was solid clouds, except for one tiny patch of blue to the south.