Nubivagant

nubivagant |ˈnuːbɪvəgənt|
adjective • English

moving or wandering through or among the clouds.


Clouds have many moods. The happy, fluffy clouds of a warm summer day are nothing like their dreary cousins of the overcast days of spring or autumn. Winter clouds are silent and bleak. Rainy days can be gloomy or peaceful, and there’s something thrilling about the anger of a storm: dark clouds rolling in and swallowing the sky, casting the world beneath into a brief and turbulent night. Cloudless days are “perfect”, but a cloud-streaked sunset is beautiful. And the moods of the clouds can affect the moods of those who pass beneath them in profound ways.

Last week there was a very foggy morning. It was the kind of fog where you can’t see so much as a block away, and within that block, anything that’s not right in front of you is merely a faded silhouette. Where you’re going and where you’ve been are nowhere to be found. All that exists is the tiny slice of reality that surrounds you; all else seems to dissolve, like something you can only glimpse out of the corner of your eye. I had to catch a bus to work on this morning, and the ten-minute walk to the bus stop was unrelentingly eerie. I pressed forward into the unknown, almost disoriented, blindly trusting that I knew the way along the path that vanished in front of me. The only sounds were my own footsteps and breathing; the fog seemed to swallow all else. It was just me, alone in the world — any hints of fellow inhabitants felt uncanny and out of place. Sets of glowing yellow eyes were the only indication of cars. And, periodically, the shapes of people would appear in the distance, ghostly and featureless, perhaps coming or perhaps going — I couldn’t tell. We usually think of clouds as passive, minding their own business above us as we do beneath them, but they harbor a hidden aggression that comes out on days like this. When the clouds hang that low, they command attention and respect, quietly imposing their will upon you.

The creepiness of that morning has stuck with me; I knew even while it was happening that I had to write about it. There’s something evocative and mysterious about foggy days — it’s as if the sky has decided to come down into our realm, resulting in a dreamlike overlap between worlds. At first glance, a word like nubivagant evokes the obvious: birds, airplanes, things high above our reach that know a world we can only admire from afar — but that foggy morning reminded me that it’s not so binary. Rather, the sky and the ground are two parts of the same whole, coexisting in perfect balance. And when they happen to intersect as they did on that morning, they’re simply giving us a chance to be nubivagant too. There’s something invigorating about knowing that even we, the earthbound, can walk among the clouds.

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One thought on “Nubivagant

  1. Mood, I believe, is an under-appreciated aspect of writing. Edgar Allan Poe wrote that a sustained mood was necessary for a well-crafted story. He was, as I’m sure you know, a master of that. Clouds and weather in general are great indicators of mood. There’s a literary term for it this that I can’t remember—once I locate it, it might make a good topic of exploration!

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