Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia


There are moments in life that I’ve wasted – hours spent watching mediocre television; listening to speakers with nothing to say; crying into a cheap glass of wine over an even cheaper boyfriend. 

Then there are moments that I treasure and will never regret – time spent in the company of family and friends; hours playing with animals or tending plants; and then today, the few moments I spent watching clouds drift across the sky.

It feels like we’re all waiting right now. Waiting for news or waiting for vaccinations, for restrictions to be lifted, for borders to open, for life to return to something approaching normal. I’m not sure I know what normal feels like anymore, but I do know what waiting feels like. 

Today, for a minute or two, I waited for Clyde to buy a takeaway coffee. Clouds were forming and floating above my head in that blue arc of Broken Hill sky, threads of white and grey shifting and drifting in layered patterns that never stopped forming and reforming. I looked up and I watched the clouds, and suddenly, just like that, I felt restored, soothed by something bigger and more beautiful.

“J’aime les nuages…les nuages qui passent…”

It reminded me of the last line of a simple poem that I hadn’t read since school, called The Stranger (L’Etranger) by Charles Baudelaire. The poem takes the form of a conversation between two people. 

‘Who do you love most?’ asks the first speaker. ‘Your father, your mother, your sister, or your brother?’ The stranger replies that he has neither father, mother, sister nor brother. He’s alone, and he doesn’t understand what the speaker means when he asks if he loves his friends either. Does he love gold? No. 

Eventually, the speaker asks who the stranger does love. ‘I love clouds,’ the stranger replies. ‘I love clouds that pass by… there…there…those magnificent clouds.’ 

The poem has just 12 lines: 

“Qui aimes-tu le mieux, homme énigmatique, dis ? ton père, ta mère, ta soeur ou ton frère?
– Je n’ai ni père, ni mère, ni soeur, ni frère.
– Tes amis?
– Vous vous servez là d’une parole dont le sens m’est resté jusqu’à ce jour inconnu.
– Ta patrie?
– J’ignore sous quelle latitude elle est située.
– La beauté?
– Je l’aimerais volontiers, déesse et immortelle.
– L’or?
– Je le hais comme vous haïssez Dieu.
– Eh! qu’aimes-tu donc, extraordinaire étranger?
– J’aime les nuages… les nuages qui passent… là-bas… là-bas… les merveilleux nuages!” 

I don’t regret the time I spent searching for and reading that poem, and I will never regret the few moments I spent today, watching clouds drift across an open sky.

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This entry was posted on July 31, 2021 by and tagged , , , .


I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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