The Changing Face of the Sky

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Контент 14+ When I was a little boy in Martinsburg, West Virgina, I used to sit on the front porch of our house and watch the comings and goings along Queen Street, which ushered a stream of traffic in and out of town. Back then in America, the cars were very big (this was before Volkswagens, Fiats, and all those Japanese and Korean cars appeared in smaller sizes and were much more gasoline-efficient.

So there were Cadillacs and Fords, Chevrolets and Dodges, Mercuries and Pontiacs. As they drove by, or stood parked on the street, I used to observe them and imagine that they had human faces. They did, you know, because faces are like chameleons, even able to contort with time, as old couples sometimes start to resemble each other, and just as people and their dogs can begin to share the same expressions.

To me, the names of those old-day automobiles were magic. I would sit and say the word "Studebaker" --- "stu -- di -- bay -- ker" over and over.

And when a model called a "Golden Hawk Studebaker" came out, I felt that some mythological beast had come back to life. Such was the beguiling force language exerted on me even then. It wasn't what these words meant, it was what they sounded like. Something primeval that swam in the pit-waters of my soul, I do believe.

I would also look up and see human or animals faces in the clouds. The skies over Martinsburg, thus, if not given over to a sallow gray lid or altogether blotted out by winter, had many faces. That sky was my Sistine Chapel. Many people appeared in those heavens -- some with wild expressions, some fierce, some soft and sad, some laughing. It was eternity turned back on its head, showing me where people go when you never know where they went.

When I lived in Moscow, there wasn't always a lot of sky to look at. I even heard that during the month of December this past year, there were exactly 9 minutes of sunlight in the capitol ! Imagine that !! Everyone, please don't forget to take your vitamin D-3 tablets. Artificial sunlight pills.

In the village of Bliznatsi, the sky has come back to its home above the Earth, roaring back from behind the sickly film of mucous that human filth spreads over the canopy of cities. There are no towering offices blocks here, no coughing smokestacks. From my balcony, when I take a break from writing, I look out across a vast, bowl-shaped field that leads to the brink of the forest, and then down to the Black Sea. The sky makes a majestic oval overhead and when, like this morning, that sky is a scintillating blue, one sees that a moon-ghost lingers all day until night commands it to smear its face with a crusty mascara of harvest gold. On a bright night, the constellations ride into shape and crackle with angels and devils of electricity.

It is said that the Impressionist painters, understanding that the advent of the camera had supplanted some of their traditional craft, began simply to paint Light. The new machines couldn't do that. Predictably, the public howled with rage and the salon 'experts' were scandalized, but the Impressionists triumphed in the end. And good for them.
The sky over Bliznatzi is like one huge Impressionist painting. I get up early, often before sunrise, and go walking with my beloved hounds. Sometimes we descend into such a mist that I halfway expect to meet Sherlock Holmes down in the valley. By the time we get home, the mist has burned away and the blue, naked sky, like the Sea of Galilee, reveals itself. When there is no mist, the sunrise appears red below the horizon, and one imagines many bright-crimson firetrucks racing off to confront some great cauldron of flames.

All day the fabulous cradle of the sky is open. Winter birds squall and careen from mountain to sea and back, and the only smoke comes from the chimneys of the oldest houses where native Bulgarians -- and not foreigners who have bought their way in -- live in plain, uncomplicated fashion. Because we dwell near the sea, there is often a strong wind to whip the clouds forth, even driving them to stampede, like muscular white and gray animals, but on windless days when it still decides to be cloudy, those alabaster bulbs sit quietly in the sky like a brotherhood of buddhas. And then the evening comes with its softer fires, like some reddening woman enticing you into the deeper and darker regions of her house, extinguishing the candles as she leads the place.
I have flown in many airplanes over the years, and I am always glad to get back on the ground, but here I often watch the planes as they slide soundlessly overhead, and I imagine the people sitting up and down the aisles, and try to imagine their faces. From the earth, they always seem so safe and cozy way up there, as if they are having a party to which I would sort of like to be invited.

Back in Martinsburg, the planes used to fly overhead one at a time, and then they were driven by propellers, not jet engines. That was before I ever boarded one, and I guess I must have wondered what it was like to fly in an airplane, though about this I can't recall. I only remember that the sky was never crowded.

Over Bliznatzi it is much different, especially at the weekend. Our location in Bulgaria means that Italy, Greece, Turkey, etc., are not far away, and so the skies are busy. It is normal to look up on a Sunday afternoon, for instance, and see seven or eight planes all at once, crisscrossing in their various directions. Somehow, there never strikes me as being any sort of contrast, much less conflict, between the natural sky and the mechanical aircraft machines. And there never seems any danger. It is easy, natural.

The planes look beautiful too, with their long white streams trailing behind them, all those dreams and passions lit up in the minds of the passengers inside the capsules. And the jets, though hurtling along at preposterous speeds, seem inexpressibly calm, as if riding upon the palm of some ancient hand spread forth by the very force of which those blue skies are constituted. Then evening comes and then night, and I retire, happy in my certainty that, at least on this day, all the people must have got to where they were trying to go.

===Eric Richard Leroy===

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