My dad and I are big fans of clouds. Recently he wrote to me, “Clouds make the day.” Hell yes, they do! Watching clouds and describing their shape-shifting journey is one of my favorite past-times. A rocket ship turns into a slam-dunking basketball player turns into a cinnamon roll, and so on.
Every now and then I think it would be nice to be able to identify the different types of clouds (I am fairly confident I can identify a cumulonimbus), but as I studied a dry scientific chart I found that the while I wouldn’t mind knowing a stratocumulus from a cirrostratus, the science was not capturing the magic. What I like about clouds is their impermanence, their constantly changing shapes, colors and textures, the fact that they grow and disappear, the way they indicate weather and influence light. Give me a view of the sky and I will likely get lost in the shapes, in the drama or in the continuous field of gray.
Someone told me that not everyone has the ability to see faces, dragons, or other things of interest in the shapes of clouds. I looked it up, but couldn’t find anything to corroborate this. It seems like finding relatable images in abstraction is human nature, but perhaps there is a condition of extreme literalness that does not allow for seeing something that isn’t actually there. Even if a cloud is just a cloud, however, it can still be appreciated for it’s fluffiness, density, height, drama, movement and general beauty.
While I try hard not to have favorites, there is no denying that blue is a most excellent color for highlighting the edges, for revealing thin layers of clouds. Every cloud looks good with blue, from the brightest white to the darkest gray. There is much to love about a darkened sky, of course, or one brilliant with color, or bleached with the morning sun, but these tend to be appreciated for their collective beauty (e.g.: sunset), rather than the singularity of the clouds. Even if the sky is pure uninterrupted blue, it will reveal subtle changes in value and color the longer you watch it.
In the West, summer is a particularly productive time of year for cloud viewing, as storms build over the mountains. There is electricity, thunder and visual drama — keep an eye out for those! I often find myself staring at the trail, at the back of my friend who is leading the way, at the car ahead of me, at the billboard on the side of the road. Today is the day to look above that billboard! As long as you have access to a window or a door, you have access to a view of the sky, and change is happening up there, always.