“When we look up, it widens our horizons. we see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries. No differences of caste or religion or race.”
― Julia Gregson, East of the Sun
"Rows and flows of angel hair,And ice cream castles in the air, And feather canyons everywhere. I've looked at clouds that way."- Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now
When my son was young, we spent a lot of time looking up at the sky. Each day, the display was different. Sometimes we found it pleasing to the eye, curious. or intriguing. Other days, we judged it "in need of improvement". We began to rate the "sky design" on a scale of one to ten. Along with the numeric score, we offered a review. Skies were judged to be amateurish, artlessly arranged, dramatically contrasted, magnificently colored, or well composed.
After a while, we began to imagine that there was a team of cloud creators, artists who designed the sky on large screens and then projected their vision over our world. Some days it was obvious to us by the lack of thoughtful composition and the sloppy scattering of the clouds on a dull gray sky that a novice cloud intern had been allowed an opportunity to have a go at it. Other days, we were stunned by the magnificence of the display of the sun glowing in orange glory on puffy, towering cumulus majestically contrasting against deep cerulean blue, and we knew that an advanced and experienced cloud artist was at work.
In playing this silly game with my son, I did not have a conscious goal in mind. But I was inadvertently creating an appreciation of nature in all of its wonder. It's easy to go through life looking down at the ground beneath your feet, focused on the whirling thoughts in your brain, rather than the magic of nature that is all around you, changing from moment to moment, unfolding in stunning displays.
The Cloud Appreciation Society - yes, there is such a thing - posts videos, photos and art on the web designed to enhance your enjoyment of the sky. You see, my son and I are not the only people who truly appreciate the diversity and grandeur of clouds. Looking for like minded souls, I searched on the web and found this dedicated group. These folks are crazy about clouds and want to spread the insanity. In their manifesto (full version below), they " pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it."
They understand, as do I, that blue skies are boring. You need a cloud now and then to break the monotony. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;Thy fate is the common fate of all,Into each life some rain must fall,Some days must be dark and dreary."
When we look up at the sky for a moment, we are quickly reminded of the insignificance of our worries and petty grievances. We are reminded of our part in this great big, beautiful world. We see that beauty, magic, and art are constantly all around and completely accessible, not locked away in a museum. It is like we have a remedy for all that ails us right above our heads.
Consider this; outside, above your head, art is being formed on a daily basis. Have you taken notice? It's funny, because as I say this, the sky outside is completely overcast, a uniform, flat, dull gray. The cloud makers must be on holiday. Anyway, on most days, the sky is an incredible, constantly changing tableau. Turning your eyes skyward, you may see towering cumulus so creamy and rich you want to scoop one up with a spoon, glowing silvery edges, halos of rainbow hues, rays shining through like a picture from the bible, angry formations full of brooding menace, or delicate wisps like feathers on angels' wings sweeping the sky.
At my art events, I suggests to my guests that before they try to paint a cloud, they should study the sky. You will find that there is practically no wrong way to paint a cloud, because there are so many different shapes and styles of clouds. Some are traditional white cotton balls, while others have shapes or colors so improbable that if I painted them the way they appear, you would say I was a terrible artist. Yesterday, I saw a cloud that was basically a white smear on an otherwise clear blue background. Find me a person who can't paint that! For great advice on painting clouds, watch this video by Tim Gagnon.
So get a blanket, lie down in the grass, and watch the show. Not only will you become more skilled at painting clouds, but you will refresh your perspective of your place in the world and enhance your appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us.
WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.
We think that they are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.
We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of a person’s countenance.
We believe that clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save money on psychoanalysis bills.
And so we say to all who’ll listen:Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!