The Cloud Sculptors of Texas

There’s a wonderful science fiction short story by the British writer J.G. Ballard called “The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D” set in the near future about a team of friends who fly their gliders into clouds and sculpt statues that then drift across the sky with the winds.

Often when cycling home, I look up at the blue Texas sky above with its sprawling and towering clouds and imagine those sculptors at work. In this land you get this sensation of the sky seeming bigger, as well as another more intangible sense that I’ll leave to Ballard’s opening paragraph to conjure:

“All summer the cloud-sculptors would come from Vermilion Sands and sail their painted gliders above the coral towers that rose like white pagodas beside the highway to Lagoon West. The tallest of the towers was Coral D, and here the rising air above the sand-reefs was topped by swan-like clumps of fair-weather cumulus.

Lifted on the shoulders of the air above the crown of Coral D, we would carve sea-horses and unicorns, the portraits of presidents and film-stars, lizards and exotic birds. As the crowd watched from their cars, a cool rain would fall on to the dusty roofs, weeping from the sculptured clouds as they sailed across the desert floor towards the sun.”

I haven’t actually seen any sea-horse- or unicorn-shaped clouds, yet, but the Texas sky still manages to inspire.