Excerpt from the book “The Butterfly of the Childhood” by Tomislav Osmanli.

“H-h-hey…”, even today I can still hear and see Pepe whispering, all choked up in excitement, looking at the clouds that were flowing on the blue summer sky of our childhood. I am still convinced that there aren’t, nor that there ever will be such clouds any more.

The clouds are like a child’s world. The colors, the shapes, the structures, the space, the dimensions of the childhood that never repeat. No matter if all of them are still materially unchanged, once you’ve returned to the abandoned place of your childhood, everything seems to be different, altered, poorer, paler, even smaller compared to the image of the childish experiences that are written in the memories that reality so desperately tries to identify with. This is when the old magic that imprints things in the memory, seems to be irrecoverably gone even from the most unchangeable objects or places.

Still, everything seems to be different with the clouds. Apart from the stiffed objects of the past, they never stand still. They change repeatedly, taking the most peculiar positions and the most unreal shapes, formed either by their own odd inspirations, or by their own strange whims. When the clouds get moved and start changing forms, that surely means that they lead high-styled discussions with the wind roses in the skies: sometimes quickly and in high voices, and other times slowly and solemnly. But, sometimes in that moving sky polyphony of the all-kind winds, the cloudy tenors of the high flyers mingle through the open space with the basses of the heavy cumuluses in a magnificent diversity of the sky-whisperers. That rich game of the moving positions and shapes of the white, once stretched and sparse and the other times foamy and fluffy sky creations, appears to be either a serene windy, or a stormy sky fairy tale that floats indispensably. That sky tale can be seen only if we look deep into the marvelous and unrepeated fluid game in the skies, leaving itself freely to the cloud fantasy… But exactly those stories, those exciting fairy tales are what is missing today. It seems thay have simply disappeared, gotten lost, or blown by the winds somewhere far away, in the azure immenseness of the childish sky.

“H-h-hey, c-c-clouds!”, shouted Pepe for himself, looking at the silly game of the clouds, and choking from excitement – the sole reason for his stuttering talk. The four of us were lying in the grass of a meadow deep in the city park, inhaling the fresh, odd smell of the chamomile, the fern, and the tiny unknown blossoms of the meadow vegetation. All of us were chewing on a grass leaf at the edge of the mouth, peacefully gazing in the hights above us…

And there they were, soft and streched out in the blue overhead as if they were parts of a cottonball scattered above, filled with soft, gray shadows formed in the afternoon spring sun of their lavish configuration. The cloud pastels moved in the azure vault: some times immense, darkened, extensive and round cumuluses, and sometimes thin, stretched and lucid. We could have looked at them for a long time, one could say with hours, while the spring sun pleasantly touched our faces, finding us exhausted from the games, in the webs of a sweet drowsy immobility. All of a sudden something would’ve ruined that lethargy: either one of our excited voices, or the twitter of the birds fulfilling the meadow sounds of the beautiful day.
The clouds like white, immaterial arcs of fantasies sailing in the skies, continued to transform. Sometimes, when looking at those metamorphoses, we felt the tiny touch of the first translucent veil of a dream. The clouds – so untouchable, so rich in meaning, so mysterious, spreaded, so white, clear and pleasant – seemed like sky bedding, calling you to stretch out and flow, sail in the endless blue where the high, tender winds carry you through the eternally opened space. Down there, beneath you, stays everything: the school, the teachers, the principals, the neighbors, the parents, the dull visits to relatives and the summer drowsiness of the city…

The clouds, as we all knew, are dense water vapor. This way, with all their forms they looked as if they were anything else but water vapor made out of steam arising from all the boiling soup pots in our city. To us, the clouds were something more. They were sky images of fantasy; foam of our childish admirations shaped in the most diverse forms and evaporating from the weirdest fantasies sailing in the sky…

“He-he-hey! Do you see an a-archaeopteryx?…”, shouted out Pepe, naming the ancient bird with the hardest pronounceable name that he had seen in his brother’s natural history book.

“Where?”, I asked silently. “I see two white galloping horses!”.
“They look like the munch mallows that my grandmother makes.”, said Mishko. “She can never match two evenly.”
“Mmmm, they look so creamy”, whispered Yane.
“If I could just take a bite”, adds Mishko. “If they were ice-cream, I would’ve ate them all”.
“There th-th-they are”, laughed Pepe. “Eat all you want!”

And so we laughed until we were overcome by the serenity of admiration. In such a moment I lived my most beautiful cloud fantasy. A story which started quite ordinary, here at the end of the park, in a nearby meadow. In such a moment at the frontier between the cloudy view and the snooze, that was imperceptibly surmounting us. Mishko was already breathing slowly and his monotonous sound dazed us even more. Just as I slipped into the pleasant nap filled with sunshine and the scent of the fresh plants that had been spreading all over the meadow, I felt a light trembling shadow before my closed eye-lids. Soon after, I felt a similar tremorous touch on my face. I opened my eyes and saw a beautiful butterfly with lusciously painted wings, a large shivering “Swallow tail”, which had finally found a landing spot on my shoulder. Her unusual wing stains were so beautiful, that, just for a moment, I wanted to touch her. Softly I spread my palm and touched her wings with two of my fingers. Even today, I can still feel her silky dust on them. I quickly put my hand off her tiny wet wings, while the butterfly started strangely trembling, and flying without direction. Shortly after, she had sipped some more of her magic dust on her wings, and finally restored the balance and beauty of her flight. Obviously she didn’t like my touch. Although brief and gentle, it was dangerous for her. The secret to the flight of the butterflies, and I was convinced then, was in their wet magic dust, which was obviously put on by the winds, and now that I felt it between my fingers, I thought, smiling to myself, that I, myself, can fly just like the butterfly.

I arose and looked after the butterfly. She was briefly stopping on the flowers, on her way onward, away from me. Suddenly, I wished not to ever lose her. I took pleasure in the joy of her flight and the presentiment of a new game with her. I wished to touch her soft yellow wing covered with unusual stains once more, and I loved the peculiarity of that small, living kite. I followed her, leaving my friends behind. As we entered the nearby forest, the butterfly began to stop for a while on each log, fern and blossomed plant. She was tempting me, flying away as I approached her, making me burst into laughter every time we repeated our silly game.
And as the flight of the butterfly continued, I was overtaken by a care-free whim. Soon after we got out of the forest, I stopped at the edge of the woods astonished by a magnificent view which had appeared before me.
Lifted just above the ground of the country meadow, a thick white cumulus stood right in front of me. The cloud was floating just above the plants. He was so low that he could touch the moldable tops of the dandelions. Since then, I know that dandelions are actually little pieces of clouds fallen on the tops of spring plants. That is why one can so easily blow them away as if they had never been there in the first place…

So, there he was, the huge and fluffy cloud, the one in which my butterfly had entered and disappeared. Following her, I too stepped into the cloud. The minute I thought that I’ll get myself into an enormous white-gray vail of mist, I fell into an open space surrounded by white, lavish whiteness, stepping through its interior that looked like a snow-white hallway. Walking through the miraculous inside of the cumulus, I suddenly saw the butterfly wriggling though its halls that had been separated in cloudy passages and stairways. They made the white space look more and more like a velvety white labyrinth. The butterfly, with it’s yellow wings, could be easily seen in the cotton whiteness of this open spaced cloud labyrinth. As the butterfly started moving through the cloudy foams, and as the cloud started changing it’s cotton-white color into a yellowish-white one, I began loosing her. Then, my miraculous cumulous changed it’s color again, at first in orange, and then the metamorphosis continued until the cloud finally turned into fiery-red.

It was a marvelous site. From the outsides, the magnificent purple of the sunset penetrated through the cloudy walls, painting them in the coloration of the early twilight. I continued walking through, as if I were climbing upon a fluffy purple stairway. I was feeling as if I had become a part of the same cloud. Then, the outside wind opened a hollow in the cloud, showing an impressive site river, the park and the city, that were laying down, while the late spring sun slowly sank in the west, painting the whole landscape. The mountains, the meadows, the tree branches in the park, the river, the air, and even my own cloud on which I was sailing high, high above the city sky.

From somewhere, I could hear the voice of Pepe, riding his archaeopteryx cloud and shouting louder than ever: “H-h-hey! Clouds!” Over there, on my two cloudy horses, Mishko and Yane raced with the high winds, loudly laughing, while the sunset breeze messed their hairs, and filled their open mouths. There were clouds all over the sky. Small, round clouds, that the winds had pushed all around the open space above the city. A kid was flying on every single one of them: my friends from the kindergarden, the kids from my alley, the rascals from the neighborhood, and many others that I didn’t even know. And that game in the early evening sky, continued above the river in which we could see our reflections together with the ones of the pigeons, the crows’’ and the silvery tiny fishes in the water.

In the meantime, we didn’t stop our game. We were shouting freely, amazed from that wonderful walk upon the evening city-sky while the winds carried our voices far away.

Kids, flying on clouds above the city…

* * *

Whenever I remember of that cloud fantasy, and whenever I lift my eyes toward the skies trying to rediscover it in the todays’ clouds, I understand that the clouds are no dense water vapor. The clouds, that I know very well now, are white, pure and only child dreams…

Maybe that’s why today’s clouds are not like the ones from my childhood. Maybe that’s why I can’t see there, the so happy, smiling child faces anymore. This however, doesn’t mean that, even now, on the clouds that are still floating above our heads, some other children are not still playing, foolishly astrayed during the hunt for the butterflies of their own childhood.

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