Clouding My Thoughts

As a cloud-gazing aficionado, I know I’m in good company. It’s hard not to be intrigued by the astounding amount of information, meteorological and otherwise, that one can read and guess and even predict from close observation of clouds; it’s easy to become rather obsessed with watching them and seeing what’s found in them beyond the mere factual.

And you know I am drawn to all things that invite invention.photoOur summer peregrinations offered vast quantities of opportunity in this lovely form. As passenger on 99% of our 6000 mile road trip (just as I am in our everyday life) I was free to stare into the sky whenever I wasn’t on intensive watch duty for a specific exit or landmark, and the sky when seen from the vast American plains is a grand theatre indeed. While ‘Big Sky Country‘ is one state’s nickname, and Montana is indeed a region of wide open views of the sky, even from the rugged-not-flat high plains, the US has millions of acres of land that lies relatively flat under the heavens and allows views across the miles that rival the telescopic.

I would be hard pressed to agree with those who find extensive mid-country travels boring from a viewing standpoint. The landscape may, in places, be no more varied than one kind of wild grass giving way gradually to another over wide sweeps of seldom changing topography, one tumble-down farm very much like the next, but besides that even these have their subtle differences, they are all capped by this apparently limitless height of sky. Mostly, I find this mesmerizing, even meditative. When the weather is cloudless, the intensity of the hot blue depths above, looking as though they never did and never could have anything in them change, have a kind of cobalt stolidity to them that can be oppressive but, when broken by the least irruption–a crop dusting plane coughing out its own skinny clouds, a crow chasing a hawk straight up out of a stand of mowed weeds–suddenly becomes backdrop for high drama. Indeed, as one who grew up before the special effects masters of film took to using the more popularly familiar green screen to allow the insertion of infinite inventions in CGI, I was accustomed to chroma key blue screens, so now the sky has become mine.

Still, as much as I love the clear beauty of a bold blue sky and the endless space for spectacle that it represents, when clouds come into the picture the possibilities are multiplied exponentially.

Not only do they serve as messengers of what sort of travel conditions lie ahead when I’m on the road–especially when observed from so many miles away as is possible in an open landscape–they tell stories and evoke romances tirelessly, keeping my mind a-spin with the permutations and portents I read therein. Much as I find driving in the most intense storms, day or night, a stressful challenge to my technique, never mention my eyes, the colors and textures and patterns in the clouds rarely cease to amaze and delight me, even in the center of the maelstrom. And when things settle down and the clouds begin to part and thin and allow through them those fugitive rays that remind me more truly of both the size of the clouds that it takes to fill such a hyperbolic height of sky and of the power that mere collations of mist can have when they converge for battle? Then I see again the beauty of clouds altogether, and I am on cloud nine.photo

How Clouds were Invented

Clouds have long inspired a lot of fantasy, and though I’ve enjoyed many a day of lying around imagining what I saw in the clouds–creatures and inventions of all sorts–I’m quite certain I’m far from alone in entertaining myself with this pastime. A frequent identification of clouds by a great many of us aficionados, too, is the spotting of sheep among them. Whitish, puffy and fluffy, sometimes seen in herd-like groups and sometimes seeming to wander aimlessly, clouds and sheep both inspire a bit of dreamy invention in me.

Contemplating the possible relationships between them is just as delightful to me as noticing their simple visual resemblance. My current dream is that once-upon-a-time, there was a gentle old wizard meditating in a meadow, and he found that despite his lovely surroundings and his peaceable and contemplative nature he couldn’t quite get to the point of having the restful nap he so desired. Couldn’t, that is, until he conjured some of the nearby sheep to float around him like sweet woolly zeppelins, whereupon he closed his eyes in quiet ecstasy and drifted off himself into ethereal sleep.digital illustrationSilly, I know (and potentially having some logistical issues attached), but I find the image somewhat comfy myself. Since it’s nearing 3 a.m. as I write this, I do believe it’s a fine time to test whether simply savoring the image might not get me appropriately sleepy. I’ll get back to you on that. Eventually. Though I might be just a little woolly-headed on my return.

Animal Crossings

I know not what the relevance

Of tortoises and elephants

And tapirs, panthers, malamutes

And goats in my dreams constitutes—

I only know that when I sleep,

This is the zoo I tend to keep,

And if it lends to such pursuits,

It may include a thousand sheep.