(adj.) wandering through or amongst the clouds; moving through air; from the Latin nubes (“cloud”) and vagant (“wandering”), c. 1656.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
—William Wordsworth, 1804
Artists are often dismissed as having their heads in the clouds (the literal airheads, one might say), pursuing flights of fancy in the ever-fantastic curlicues of endless whimsical sky. If they were to form a club, we might call it the Nubivagant Club. Or we might not, since the word has faded from the English language since its invention in the 1600s.
This week we pay homage to those who still wander with their heads in the clouds, both figuratively and literally. In honor of Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning author who passed away this week, have a look at her 1983 interview with the Paris Review. For Nautilus, Phillip Ball explains the poetry and science behind the phenomenon of turbulence. And, finally, for a dose of humor, float through Sadie Stein’s 2012 “Letter from an Airplane”, in which she encounters some mid-flight turbulence of a different kind.