Driving along the river road, I point my camera towards the sky at every red light. Traffic lights never stay red long enough when you want to take a photo.
The people in the surrounding cars are staring straight ahead. They’re busy talking on their phones, yelling at their kids in the backseat, or drumming their fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to change. The girl in front of me is using her rear-view mirror to put on mascara. I hope she doesn’t poke her eye when the light changes.
Clouds stretch like cotton balls into thin, gauzy lines, pointing the way, taunting me to follow. They are works of art — sometimes a Monet, sometimes one of Frida Kahlo’s more disturbing pieces.
When I think I’ve seen every cloud there is, another one jumps out at me.
I pull over and stop to write what the clouds bring to mind:
Cirrus, wispy as chick down, lie amongst spoonfuls of cumulus vanilla ice cream.
The sun, feeling overshadowed, kicks off a fiery ball of attitude.
I stare and watch the heavens change before my eyes. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, depending on the whims of the wind.
The camera lens doesn’t see things the way I do. I’m disappointed when the pictures are not as intense as what appeared in the sky.
Other times, what the camera captures is a sweet surprise. A soft edge of white mixed with peach, not a cloud but a dream.
Influenced by light, moisture, wind, and seasons, the clouds are an endless mix of major and minor chords, creating a symphony.
I look at a park full of people, appropriately social distancing, of course.
Some are wearing masks, some are not.
Some are in colorful clothing, others are artistically attired in black.
Some are walking or throwing frisbees.
Some sit alone on benches or picnic tables, watching the river flow.
I think of them as clouds and wonder which had a lifetime of of light and love, and which were built from want.
I can guess, but I wouldn’t be right. People are not as easy to read as clouds.
Life blows us in different directions. Unique experiences make us who we are. Or not. It’s surprising the way similar lives can lead to different ends.
If we are honest, we know little about each other. Even the people who are close. We know less about people vastly different from ourselves.
So knowing so little, why are we so quick to assume and judge?
I know there’s a lot to be angry about. I’m angry about greed, things done out of fear of the other, and a political system gone beserk—so much harm has been done.
But I fear we will kill each other if we continue down this path. And yet, we remain too stuck and stubborn to change.
The only action I see for myself is to live the life I believe in.
And hope the wind carries something positive away.
Influenced by love and beauty, violence and injustice, people are composed of a mix of dischord, dissonance, and irregular beats. But despite pain and grief, strength and beauty remain.
A symphony is possible.
The Sphinx Organization is a Detroit-based national organization whose mission is to transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts.