On Cloud Nine: The Calm Before the Storm


The ancient weather deities held a special conclave. They had held sway on the Planet Earth for millennia after millennia. They had thundered and blustered and poured down rain in torrents. They shot fiery lightning bolts across the darkest of skies. Even that upstart creature, the human being, acknowledged their absolute and mighty power. Everywhere on the planet these deities were feared and worshipped. These puny humans sent up incantations, they begged and pleaded and prayed and danced to honour and appease the deities.

And now the deities were tired. Tired of all the attention. Sure it felt good to be worshipped and have sagas and myths and poems written about them, but the luster had worn off with time. The deities preferred the many millennia before humans evolved. When the amoebas and the mosses and all the myriad other forms of life which emerged on this planet, did their own thing, whilst the weather deities did theirs.

So the deities, every last one of them, Ba’al, Horus, Indra, Oya, Chaac, and the many others, voted in favour of retiring from the scene. Even Thor and Zeus who normally thrived on being both feared and celebrated, wanted out. “Let the pathetic humans come up with their own explanations for weather phenomena and just leave us out of it.” Xerploo and Zanyplex, the planet’s guardian angels, had been guests at the conclave and they looked forward to see how humans would fare now.

Many humans chose to carry on the reverence of the weather gods, and some of the minor deities enjoyed the rituals in their honour but kept it on the celestial down low.

The planet kept on revolving around its sun, for centuries on end, oblivious to the explanations given for its phenomena. It just was! And it reveled in its being.

But humans, pesky creatures that they might be, could not leave well enough alone. They needed to have explanations for what they observed and experienced. Xerploo and Zanyplex enjoyed their guardian angel popcorn, and settled in for the show.


Magdalena was absorbed by the weather. From her lofty perch in the old oak tree, she would watch the clouds – sometimes lazily cavorting in the sky, sometimes gathering to unleash their watery fullness upon the earth below. She was often mesmerized by one cloud in particular. Among all the forever mutating cloud shapes, this one always seemed to be waiting for her when she looked up, and it seemed to smile, and even wink at her.

The young girl enjoyed daydreaming about the journeys of water. From the clouds unto the earth: puddles, streams, rivers, the faraway seas. Then being called back up into the sky, forming clouds and then to rain down once more, nurturing the plants and growing things and giving drink to the animals. She knew her family’s extensive vineyards depended on the right amount of celestial waters at the right time. This had been a good season; the grapes grew large and fulsome. Many ducats for the family’s coffers.

“And always some set aside for your dowry,” smiled her father, “for when the time comes”.

“Oh, no, Papa, I shall remain a free woman and work in the vineyards. I want to learn about rootstock and harvesting and all that goes into making our delicious nectars.”

Papa always laughed when she told of her dreams. “See, Mamma,” he would say, “She is a young girl yet but soon she will become a woman and will want to wed and to give us precious grandbabies.”

And soon, on a sunny day where her special cloud appeared and smiled and even winked at her, Magdalena was given in marriage to Guillermo. Her husband was a young duke from a neighbouring village: his family’s political connections would further the vineyard’s fortunes. He was decent enough, attentive in a young puppyish way, but not overbearing, and, most importantly, not inclined to get in her way. She quickly produced twins: Angelina and Matteo.

Magdalena found that she enjoyed being a mother, especially since the nursemaids and other staff took care of the household duties. She loved to take the children for walks around the vineyards, pointing out features of the sky. Angelina was generally more interested in the bugs and the worms and other creatures crawling on the ground, but Matteo loved sky-gazing as much as his mother. He loved to point out different kinds of clouds and Magdalena was gratified that her smiling cloud revealed itself to her son as well. It was their delicious special secret.

Time passed; generations succeeded generations. The excitement of weather phenomena was faithfully passed on within the family. In the early seventeenth century, as humans count time, one particular scion, Evangelista, a bright boy, was sent to the academy to study weather. Since weather was so important to the family’s ever-increasing vineyard fortunes, he was encouraged to study hard. He himself was more interested in reading and writing poetry. But knowing the family would disapprove, he maintained the façade of interest in science.

Meanwhile it was his twin sister, Magdalena (named after their earlier ancestor) who had inherited the familial interest in weather. She read his science books along with her brother, in secret of course, so as not to bring disgrace unto the family. A boy poet and a girl scientist; Shame! Shame!

She also inherited the smiling cloud, which she felt inspired her quest for knowledge. Specifically, it seemed to guide her to play with the various instruments in her brother’s study. With some experimentation, she was able to produce a device to measure air pressure and storms: a barometer! Of course, Evangelista had to take the credit for it. Nonetheless she open-heartedly rejoiced at the fame accorded to her family, the Torricelli’s. And she gave thanks to her smiling cloud.

Floating on said cloud, Xerploo and Zanyplex exchanged a guardian angel high five!

Marilyn Myerson, PhD Philosophy, has learned to take nothing for granted and to have fun. She retired from USF after 38 years of teaching, learning and kicking up her heels in Women’s and Gender Studies. Marilyn was the first outside hire in W(G)S, starting in 1973, when the department was just one year old. She was an administrator at various departmental and dean’s levels, including a stint as W(G)S Chair before her retirement as Emeritus faculty in 2010. She shepherded the Human Sexual Behavior class through its many incarnations, developed the original women’s health classes, and taught feminist research methodology. She is currently in three writing groups, and happily involved with OLLI-USF, taking art and writing classes. She created and teaches  OLLI Imaginative Writing classes and facilitates writing groups.

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