The Ineffable Wonder of Clouds

| April 1, 2015 | 43 Comments

Community April15aWhat’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “cloud”? In today’s technology-driven world, I imagine that many people immediately think of “cloud” relating to the Internet; a generally used term for anything that involves delivering hosted services there. Hmm. Sounds boring to me, as “cloud” conjures up something dramatically and wonderfully different in my imagination.

Divine Playing Field

For as long as I can remember — we air signs are known for relating to life this way — I’ve been the girl looking up, drawn into an unknowable celestial world of blue skies and mesmerizing clouds. For many years, I truly believed I was part of a small minority of people who were secretly fascinated and captivated by the clouds above. Maybe because people always seem to me to be, well, so grounded and earthbound. In an effort to share my joy with others, I’d point to the sky and encourage them to look up at what I was seeing and then compare notes. Sometimes it worked.

There’s a line in the India Arie song “River Rise,” that perked my ears up as I smiled. It seemed she had written this particular line about me. “I was always, a charmed flower child. I would sit for hours and listen to the sky.” If you’ve read anything about me, or my book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie, this might not surprise you. This is exactly what I do. I listen to the sky. I tune into the cosmos and let the ideas flow. I trust my intuition, knowing this is where my inspiration comes from. A vast divine playing field fuels my imagination.

Peter Max, Joni Mitchell, and the Cosmos

After reading artist Peter Max’s new book, The Universe of Peter Max, and then synchronistically reconnecting with him, his sharing that the cosmos has been his inspiration from an early age as well truly moved me. The cosmos and clouds show up in many of his most loved pieces of art. The magical quality in his art, speaks loudly to many of us because of this heavenly, cosmic influence.

Then there is Joni Mitchell’s famous song “Both Sides Now,” that describes our human fascination with the elusive nature of clouds. “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow. It’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.” And, I couldn’t agree more. How can we ever know the wondrous world of clouds?

Where Are the Clouds?

Cloud watching often happens as a solitary pursuit. I get that, as I do solitary very well. It doesn’t matter which clouds roll by, I find myself intrigued by them all. Of the things I miss most during the seemingly endless cold grey winter months here in Toronto, is the disappearance of the rich, fertile beauty of the clouds.

It’s true that winter is the time of year for us to go inward, inviting us to be more insular and reflective, yet the loss of the cloud landscapes above, seems to me like the lifeline between heaven and earth is temporarily disconnected. Often the weather makes it challenging to be outside and enjoy the natural world around us. Perhaps this is why so many people like to escape winter and go somewhere warm and sunny — to be outside and enjoy the spectacular cloud-filled skies again.

Community April15bA World Filled With Fellow Cloud Appreciators

Imagine my sheer delight when I happened upon fellow whimsyist Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s TED talk, “Cloudy With a Chance of Joy”. With currently over 1.1 million views, it’s an absolute must watch for everyone! Cloud lover or not.

Without a moment’s hesitation from “clouded” vision, I jumped at the chance to join his Cloud Appreciation Society and became part of a virtual army of cloud watchers, currently 35,000 plus strong in over 100 countries around the world. Who knew this many people had this curiosity and attraction to clouds?

Knowing so many others also hold this cloud fascination was an exciting discovery for me, dispelling my erroneous belief, that I was virtually alone in my lifelong love of clouds. So why does cloud watching as an adult, remain a nostalgic pursuit reserved for childhood? Now I keenly keep my eyes to the sky, as I explore and learn about a multitude of cloud formations, complements of the official CloudSpotter app on my iPhone.

Heavenly Spring Landscapes Return

As spring returns, you’ll find me walking daily, with my feet not so firmly on the ground and my head in the clouds, experiencing a magnificent display of nature’s beauty, able to chronicle and share my individual view from down here with others around the globe. It’s awe inspiring to see the amazing photos fellow cloud appreciators from all over the world share there too.

What never ceases to amaze me are the formations I see; formations that seem to relate directly to who I am. Elephants are a huge theme for me, (I’m a dedicated elephant crusader) and see them in the clouds everywhere I look. All the time. When I asked Pretor-Pinney in an email exchange, if he had any idea for the reason behind my continued elephant sitings in the clouds, he replied to me, “There is a long history of associations between elephants and clouds – mostly due to early Hindu myths about the creation of the world.” Interesting.

Personally, I believe that what shows up for you in the clouds — what you see — is what colors your life down here on earth. Think about what you see when you watch clouds. I couldn’t agree more with him when he says that clouds are “the most diverse, evocative, poetic aspect of nature.”

Community April15cTime to Slow Down

Ironically, in a world that is indisputably continuing to speed up, we realize that it is becoming increasingly important that we personally find our own individual ways to slow down. Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, is in fact about “redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder,” in spite of the perpetual stress that the business of modern day life almost demands.

Watching clouds is the perfect pastime, an ideal antidote that offers us a way to slow down and find inner calm. As Pretor-Pinney says “It’s like a bit of everyday meditation.” And, “it legitimizes doing nothing.” Officially, I now refer to myself as a “cloud meditator,” and continue to encourage others to also see what waits for them by looking up and watching the heavens above.

Healthy Escape From Daily Life

In my personal experience, cloud watching is a lofty and healthy escape from daily, earthly life. Watching clouds offers us a way to reconnect with our childlike wonder. It stimulates my creativity and puts me in touch with something that is simply…ineffable. Similar to creating art or music or writing, it connects me with my soul and brings me inner peace. “Doing nothing,” never felt so good to me, so I’ve committed to do it often.

As spring is blooming everywhere, be kind to yourself, get outside more, and reconnect with the wonderful world of nature, as she is reborn again. I encourage everyone to “look up” sometime soon and take advantage of this free, spectacular, ever-changing heavenly display available to us all complements of Mother Nature. You just might find what you see up there is breathtakingly indescribable!

What are you most looking forward to as spring returns? What things help you slow down and bring you wonder?

Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden

Toronto has always been my home. The interesting thing is I love the sun and the warmth it brings and have always thought that I'm more of a southwest kind of person. From an early age, I’ve always loved words and wrote in a way that seemed to touch others. “I have the heart of a writer and the mind of a marketing person” and love balancing the right side creative brain, with the left side logical brain. Having written everything from magazine articles to song lyrics and everything in between, I love to research, design and build stories. My writing style is that of a conversational storyteller. Music and songwriting are passions of mine as well. I’m excited about my first full-length book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie! It’s in the style of a memoir, as I combine my anecdotal life stories taken from my years in the entertainment industry, with my stories of survival, from a lifetime lived with health issues. My goal always, is that something I share through my writing will offer hope of what is possible when it comes to the human spirit.

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Comments (43)

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  1. Clouds are mesmerizing. I am always transforming them into shapes in my mind. They are the perfect vehicle for daydreams. Thanks for reminding me to look up a little more. One of my favorite purposeful pauses is to stare at the sky outside my window.

    • A woman after my heart indeed Niqenya. Glad to hear you find “cloud watching” the perfect pastime, offering a few moments in the day to daydream and stimulate your imagination. I am always incredibly “wow’d” by looking up and seeing the beauty of the heavenly landscapes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Metaphors, clouds, nature, summer, spring, creation… There`s nothing that speaks to me like these. My summers are lived 80% outdoors, beginning in June till late September. It inspires me! Thanks for a great post, you`re awesome! x0x

    • Love how nature speaks to you Norma and that you are living your life, as much as possible, outside surrounding by nature’s creation! I’m with you on being inspired by it too. Especially the heavenly landscapes above us and the incredible trees and flowers here on Mother Earth. Appreciate your support always!

  3. I love the metaphors you’re using here and the reminder to look for more meaning other than the obvious. I love looking at the clouds on a nice summer day, so relaxing and refreshing, almost like a meditation session :)

    • Thanks so much Delia! It is wonderful to know my metaphors are being appreciated. And it’s fabulous to hear from another cloud lover, as most people say they loved clouds when they were children. Sounds like you agree with me, watching clouds is relaxing and also like a daytime meditation session. :)

  4. Shonda says:

    Beverley, your article is so inspiring. I love nature from the clouds, the sunset, the trees, the wind blowing, you name it. During our flights, my son and I often peer out the window checking out the clouds. When we are home, we gaze at the afternoon sky discussing different cloud types. His question for today: “mommy, do birds fly high into the clouds?” How befitting I would later embark upon your article.

    • How wonderful, Shonda, that you and your son spend so much time enjoying and talking about the wonders of nature. Sounds like you both are on a wonderful adventure and learning together as you go. Love your son’s question too! I would love to be a bird who could fly up among the clouds. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  5. Hi Beverley,
    I love your metaphors. I also admire how in tuned you are with your spirituality. Thanks to you I can add another tool to the “relaxation toolbox.”
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much Sharise! Happy that something in this piece offered you a new perspective and a new tool for your own “relaxation toolbox”. Look forward to hearing how “cloud meditating” works for you. Appreciate your support and comments too.

  6. Lorii Abela says:

    Your article has inspired me and lifted my spirit. I trust that reading it will do the same for other readers.

  7. Hi Beverley,

    Awesome post! The wonders of springtime and clouds :) So ready for beautiful sky and sunshine and warm days! Tired of the cold and winter :) Thanks for your inspiration my friend!

    • Thanks so much Joan! For all of us who had inclement weather this winter, I think the idea of blue skies and cloud landscapes is very appealing indeed. You’re welcome for the inspiration and here’s hoping that spring is truly just days away!

  8. I live in Oregon USA and that means there is rarely ever a day without clouds. Even summer days usually have something drifting around above us. I like it because it is a new and ever changing landscape every day. Every cloud and every day is different.

    • Love the clouds in the west, Kathryn and sounds like you enjoy the heavenly landscapes above you. They are fuel for our imagination and it is nice to hear you are conscious of the skies above you and that you appreciate the changing nature you get to witness day to day.

  9. Katie Paul says:

    It’s the end of summer in my half of the world and the clouds are gathering themselves in their autumn formations.
    I love watching the clouds, especially as they partially cover a bright moon.
    Thank you for a lovely post.

    • Clouds anytime of year, are wonderful to me Katie. Sharing your experience of the clouds partially covering a bright moon, is lovely. I also love watching cloud formations just before a sunset, as they morph and change shapes and colours as the sun goes down. Thanks for adding your voice to the “cloud” conversation.

  10. Clouds like many things in nature is an endless wonderful source of inspiration. I’ve thought more about clouds since my first reading and realize I love the clouds at very early sunset. The sky gets painted with cloud color and their shapes change from fluffy white cotton balls to shapes we can use imaginative descriptive words.

    • Thanks for your new comment Roslyn. Like you, I love the clouds just before and during sunset and love your description of how the clouds move you and how the “sky gets painted with cloud colour”. For those who live in the west, I know their sunsets are magnificent and I always look forward to my trips to Arizona, as the painted skies are truly breathtaking. I’m happy that reading this piece has reawakened some new places in your imagination. Perhaps some jewelry pieces will be coming forward in the near future, inspired by clouds and sunsets. :)

  11. Renee Becket says:

    For me, I love clouds because you can the passing of time, materialized in the constant transformation of clouds and their shapes, which allow creativity mixed-in with reminiscence. This takes us to higher levels of our imagination, kind of surrealism, or maybe super-realism, a kind of heightened realism. Clouds are time and space combined. They are mystical and real all at the same time. Thank you, Beverley, for reminding me of this Favorite childhood pastime. It’s wonderful. Best :)

    • Thanks for your lovely cloud contemplation here, Renee. Isn’t it too bad that we don’t continue the fascinations we had in childhood into our adult years. Love how you call clouds mystical, yet real. For me they also conjure up unseen worlds and stir my imagination, which is why my love affair with them continues. Thanks so much for your eloquent imaginings as they are very appreciated!

  12. Deb says:

    You’ve captured the essence of connecting to our world. I’ll join you in being a cloud meditator! There’s a cove here in Maine that I go to regularly to regroup and recharge. It’s the perfect spot to appreciate the moment while checking out and taking a break. Thanks for the reminder that taking a break allows us to move forward.

    • Welcome to the “cloud meditator” club, Deb. It is wonderful to hear how you have found your own perfect spot to take time to appreciate the beauty of the moment. Something we all could use more of in our 24/7 world of non-stop information and things to do. Appreciate you sharing and I could feel the release you find by taking those breaks to just “be”.

  13. “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now. From up and down and still somehow. It’s cloud’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.”

    I love that song!

    I have looked at clouds from both sides, I felt the power of them when flying through them. I felt the joy of just studying them and find different visions and shapes. The beauty of them when the is setting and reflecting through them, the pinks and oranges. The power of them when sheets of rain fall.

    They are integral part of what makes our world go round.

    • I remember you mentioning the Joni Mitchell song, Heather, and wanted to include it in this piece so those who love the song, are taken away with its evocative imagery. Love your description of what looking at clouds from both sides is like, as like you, I find it wondrous to fly through them and see them from the inside out.

      Clouds certainly offer a cornucopia of heavenly landscapes and I encourage everyone to spend some time noticing them as they go through their days. Sunsets that follow a cloud-filled sky, are truly indescribable, especially for those who live in the west. Sunrises in the east are equally as magnificent. Thanks so much for sharing how clouds have impacted your life, and I do believe you are also a true cloud appreciator!

  14. There is something most endearing about cloud formations. Who could not be captivated by these indistinctive bits of fluff, drifting aimlessly in the sky?!

    Your love of clouds strikes a cord with me Beverley and brings back memories of flower-filled meadows, busy buzzing bees and lazy, hazy days spent revering these idyllic clouds in motion. In a moment such as this, time stood still and gave rise to perfection in an almost transcendental way. You’re swept away with no semblance of care or worry and it’s awesome!

    As I write, I am once again mesmerized by own cloud formation as they go floating over the mountain range. Filled slightly with rain, they effortlessly enchant the tiny little village I call home. I could literally watch them all day but have to remind myself that I’m no long that lackadaisical little girl, lying freely in the meadows and that work, so much work is calling me! :(

    As I pull myself away and get back to reality, (with a bump, I may add) I am thankful to have glimpsed a moment of my youth amongst the untouchable clouds that perhaps have touched in more meaningful ways! :)

    As always, loved reading. Thank you Beverley.

    • So delighted to hear you had a moment of pause to watch the clouds and be transported back to your childhood, Michelle. It is so interesting that we all remember our love of clouds as children, yet seem to get caught up in our daily lives and forget that even as adults, the clouds beckon and are there to help stir our imaginations and give us a sense of wonder without care or worry. I encourage people, as you read in my article, to do this often…to commune with the heavenly landscapes and take the moments to just be and enjoy life.

      Love your eloquent description of your experience, even if just for a moment, and how impactful that moment and the memory it evoked is for you today. Hope you take more moments to enjoy the clouds and make some new memories. As always, your wonderful and evocative comments add so much to the conversation. Thank you for your voice!

  15. I saw an incredible post and shared it to my page about cloud formations over the Grand Canyon. Hard to think about clouds without associating clouds with you. Will try tagging you so you can enjoy the post too. When my daughter was young we had an artist paint one wall filled with clouds. Perhaps that is wht she is ‘etereal’.

    • One of the pictures in this post is actually one I took when at the Grand Canyon, Roslyn. The clouds there are truly spectacular! I’m happy to hear that when you think about clouds, you think about me too. I will visit your page and look for that post, as all things clouds fascinate me. And maybe your daughter having a cloud filled wall did indeed contribute to her being so ethereal. Or maybe you chose a cloud filled wall, already knowing she was ethereal. Thanks again for contributing to the conversation!

  16. Scott says:

    I’m just looking forward to getting outside, rain or sunshine. Anything is better than this long winter we’ve had!

    • I absolutely hear you on the long and cold winter, Scott. Since walking is one of my favourite ways to cloud watch, I also am looking forward to being outside. Sun works well for me, please.

  17. Yvonne Brown says:

    Spring is a time of personal renewal for me. It is a time for when the Persian New Year and my birthday meet often making me feel more intuned with nature and my purpose.

    • Thanks for sharing what spring brings to your life, Yvonne. I also find spring a time of renewal and rebirth (even though my birthday is in February) and it is lovely to hear that your Persian New Year and your birthday also meet to support how in tune you find yourself with your inner purpose and with nature. Nature has so much to teach us and spring is nature in its glory for me too.

  18. Lorii Abela says:

    For me, you are always a promising writer. Your writing expertise is an eloquent proof of your passion for helping readership appreciate the content that every article brings about and the applicability suited to the life embraced.

    • Thanks for your vote of support for my writing and my passion for it, Lorii. I’m happy to hear that by reading my pieces the readers are taking away something to apply in their own lives.

  19. I love this article. I love everything you write. It is always as if you are talking to me. With each paragraph I have a moment of recognition. All my life I have been earthbound and through your blogs about clouds, I can recall being mesmerized by them. I remember learning about the formations, how, and what they were in elementary science and got stuck up there with them. Life pulled me back to earth and I stayed grounded. One of my favorite songs is Joni Mitchell’s, ‘Both Sides Now’. Perhaps for the remaining years of my life, I will be both sides of Earth and looking upward.

    • So happy that my articles are so enjoyed by you, Roslyn. It really validates what I am doing as a writer and very appreciated too. And I’m happy to hear that this piece brought back some memories of your youth and your fascination with clouds and learning about them. I think I have always been fascinated by them and wondered what it would be like to bounce on them, from cloud to cloud exploring an unknowable heavenly landscape. And because of you, I did include a little bit in this piece, about Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now” as it does add so much to the ineffable wonder that the clouds offer to us all. Appreciate your ongoing support and your kind and supportive comments…always!

  20. tina says:

    Gee, I’m old fashioned, because I never would think of “cloud” and “Internet” in the same sentence! For me a cloud is a beautiful fluff of cotton in the blue sky (ok, sometimes it’s gray and we get rain, but mostly not) that I love to watch as it blows by. If I think about it, though, the clever minds at Microsoft use “cloud” in the right manner: their cloud is also a fluff of cotton (or some unexplained manner) in the sky. What a clever play on words!
    Today is Wednesday and if there are clouds to watch, I promise to take a few extra moments to gaze into the sky. Of course I’ll be thinking of you!

    • So happy to hear you’ll be looking up today at the amazing clouds in your Arizona sky, Tina. One of the things I love about visiting Phoenix and Sedona are the indescribably beautiful cloud formations. And wonderful clouds in the day generally lead to spectacular sunsets at night. It is interesting how “cloud” is now associated with the internet and it is clever, and I guess like real clouds, it has a certain mystery about it and an “ineffable” quality all its own. Glad you enjoyed this piece and anytime I can get people to look up during their day, I’m happy!

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