The Clouds Hold Joy

Sky and Hand. Photo by Callen Harty.

When I was a boy, like most boys and girls, I would lie in the grass and stare up at the sky.  I would watch the clouds go by and find shapes in them that related to my world down here on earth.  I would see animals mostly, but also occasionally a house or flower or perhaps something a little more unusual would form.  I loved the way that one thing would morph into another as the clouds moved past.  My imagination soared in a sky filled with clouds.

At night I would lie in the same grass and stare at the same sky, but instead of clouds I would try to find the big dipper or the little dipper or other shapes created by the countless stars dotting the darkness above me.  It was all so large.  The earth was so huge.  The universe was so vast, so far beyond the comprehension of my young brain.  Even the blades of grass below me were too many to count.  But none of it was big enough to contain my imagination.

Sometimes I would look at a rainbow or the horizon and know that if I put my mind to it I could walk far enough to find it.

Children allow themselves.  Children let themselves dream.  They let themselves pretend.  They let themselves play.  They can take a crayon and draw a line and find in that single magenta line myriad pictures.  They can speak a word or even a syllable and find a million stories in that single utterance.

Today I looked at the clouds above me.  In the middle of running from one thing to the next, in the middle of so many daily responsibilities, I saw shapes in the clouds.  I connected with the child within me.  I let my imagination soar a bit and realized that the only real responsibility I have in this life is to live it, and living it is better if I allow myself to dream, to imagine, to be.  Maybe tomorrow I will walk to the distant horizon.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to The Clouds Hold Joy

  1. Animals in the clouds certainly resonates for me. The single most terrifying thing that ever happened to me was to be awakened by some clinking and heavy breathing noises outside of my tent in the dead of night in Jasper NP in Alberta, 1981. Turning so I could see out, there stood a grizzly bear, maybe six feet away. It was about the same size as the tent (Eureka 2-person). Ever since, I see bear shapes in anything that could *possibly* be read as “bear”, which is why these photos, from not quite four years ago, looked like bears *to me*, oh yes…

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