The Promise of Clouds


The hills to the east reflected the setting sun and turned a deep plum. Above them stretched a thin gauze of clouds, as pale pink as spun sugar, like the world was slowly being wrapped in a tuft of cotton candy. The cloud that hovered over the bay was a great hand-shaped streak that glowed all the colors of the sky and held the last of the light.

And then as the sun continued to set, the sky darkened and with it the cloud. The colors deepened into indigo and charcoal. The cloud’s glow dulled into a dark violet edged in fuchsia, like an angry bruise barely hidden in the night sky.


Have you ever stayed too long and watched everything go dark?


Many things start out with promise. Not all, and not most, and certainly not as much promise as a cloud looming like a great piñata, ready to spill candy-colored tangerine-streak dreamlike sunset over the water’s surface. But promise enough.

Maybe we’re just fooling ourselves, and promise is a privilege. The promise of potential, and of possibility. The promise that this will be something good, and it will not end, certainly not in tears, is not elemental. It is not a given or a guarantee. Instead the promise is what we do to and with each other.

Those bright flares that burst into a bruise and fade into a sad memory: we did that. You did. I did.


I used to say I hated promises. Promises could be broken, and would be. That was how we got hurt, by making and breaking promises.

Of course that was naïve. Promises don’t hurt people. People hurt people.

There is no guarantee in this world. A promise is a foothold, a way of keeping the uncertainty at bay. I can’t be sure nothing will go wrong. I can’t be sure I won’t falter. I can’t be sure the world will not make it very hard to do what I set out to accomplish. But I can promise to remember the joy and the light. I can promise to help keep the bruises at bay.