What’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.
A 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.”
Time 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?