Reflections, Travel

Clouds and Counterpanes

I love to travel.

I don't really care what the reason for the trip. I simply enjoy the process of going from one place to another, with all the attendant visual, aural and physical experiences that it brings.

On Friday I travelled by air from Auckland to Wellington for business and a day of capital enjoyment. It was an absolutely, positively beautiful day to fly into Wellington. We left Auckland on a sunny, crisp morning and soon were flying above the clouds.

Fluffy white clouds always seem to evoke cotton wool descriptions. I normally succumb to identifying them that way too, but on this trip I made a few more observations.

Yes, on first glance from above they do look like a pile of big, boofy cotton balls. But they can also look like that polyester stuffing that falls out of the tummys of well-loved and over-cuddled teddy bears.

And on this most recent trip, I paid particular attention to the changes in the clouds. They were not a continuous mass of fluff-balls. They changed as the terrain changed. In one place they looked like a field of white mushroom clouds rising out of a white landscape. In another they looked sparse and stripped bare as though they were wool being prepared for spinning.

It was an evocative trip back into childhood for me as I watched the clouds pass below. It reminded me of the lands at the top of "The Faraway Tree" with Moonface and Silky waiting to invite me to play.

But an even stronger piece of imagery came to me as we progressed on our one hour flight. A once favourite childhood poem – Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Land of Counterpane" from "A Childs Garden of Verse" .

The changes in cloud form presented the perfect image of the counterpane in a Victorian household. Next time you fly above white fluffy clouds take another look and see if you can see the little Victorian boy sitting in his bed…

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

– R.L.Stevenson

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