Live With Your Head in the Clouds

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Today is perhaps not the best day to write about cloud appreciation because I am pretty glad there aren’t any to appreciate. This is the third day in a row of clear blue skies and I am absolutely revelling in it. It’s been cold and rainy and miserable and clouds are responsible for all that suffering, right? They’re the ones to blame, the ones to moan about and wish away. Isn’t that how we tend to think of them? That the days without clouds are the ones we should notice and appreciate?

Even on a gorgeous, clear day like today, as a new, card-carrying member of the Cloud Appreciation Society I have to wholeheartedly disagree.

Clouds are For Kids

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A great photo from http://bit.ly/13jG4h2.

When I was a kid, my favorite event was rain on a hot summer day. As a child, although I lived in a very hot place, as long as the sun was out I was out. Occasionally, the neighbour kids and I would be sitting in the driveway playing a game or eating a pile of candy, when one fluffy little cloud would pass over and tiny drops of rain would start to fall on us.

I would instantly rearrange myself so I was lying down with all of my back (legs and arms as well) on the hot pavement, while the cold rain sprinkled my face. I loved to feel the contrasting temperatures. I loved the smell of the water as it steamed up from the warm cement. And I loved that when I looked up to the sky, everything was empty and blue apart from the one tiny, white cloud just above me. It was such a treat, and I experienced those moments so fully that, even as I write this to you, I can feel all the sensations as if they are happening right now.

Seahorse cloud from the Cloud Appreciation Society Gallery at http://bit.ly/1sGaTDp

Clouds are magical. They’re fun, fleeting, ephemeral, evocative, poetic. Everything about them embodies childhood. The two are linked in our minds like cotton candy and fairs – you can’t picture one without the other. When we think of cloud watching, we remember lying on the grass as kids, hunting for shapes in th sky. When I picture those moments from my past, I can smell the grass and feel the dirt under my feet too. I was so involved in the experience, so present, that I can paint the scene across all my senses and relive it whenever I want to.

Clouds are Not for Adults

When is the last time you looked up and watched the clouds (without a child around to prompt you)? When did you last feel that gazing at the clouds was the best way to pass some time?

Most of us rush out of the house in the morning, paying attention to the traffic while we’re driving (as we probably should), or hustling to the station while looking down at our phones. We live in offices without windows, and when we leave them it is when we hurry off to get lunch around the corner and come back. We rarely stop and just look up. We rarely stop, full stop.

Kangaroo cloud fromt the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/1sFy5Bs

Kangaroo cloud from the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/1sFy5Bs

The problem is that as adults we think “I just don’t have the time! I would love to stop and look at clouds, but I have important things I’ve got to get done.” As kids, we didn’t have to “take the time” out of our busy day, we just had the time. But now we’re grown up and we’ve got stuff to do, places to be, statuses to update. We don’t have time the way we did when we were kids.

But is it really true that stopping to do something “unproductive” like cloud-watching inhibits our ability to do our big, important, I-must-do-this-because-I’m-a-grown-up type things? What if allowing ourselves to stop occasionally actually gives us the inspiration, energy and creativity we need to do a better job of the things we “have” to do.

My shiny, new Cloud Appreciation Society member badge!

My shiny, new Cloud Appreciation Society member badge!

I recently watched a TED talk by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, and he builds a remarkable case for the importance of cloud watching. The premise?

You are not gonna change the world by lying on your back and gazing up at the sky. It’s a pointless activity, which is precisely why it’s so important.

I know you’re busy with lots of important things to do, but believe me, you have time to watch this.

Clouds Are for Everyone

Gavin is on the money when he says that clouds are the most egalitarian of nature’s displays. Everyone has equal access to the sky, children and adults alike. And everyone benefits from a good bout of cloud-watching now and then.

Question mark cloud from the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/13jDtn4

Question mark cloud from the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/13jDtn4

So what if, instead of rushing into the station and pushing your way through the crowd, you stopped outside for 20 seconds first and simply looked up at the clouds? Maybe you’d recall a happy childhood memory and go to work a feeling a little lighter. Maybe you’d see an interesting shape that makes you smile, or catch the last color as it fades from the sunrise and remember that you live in a beautiful, constantly changing world. Maybe you’ll see a great, grey storm cloud rolling angrily across the sky. Whatever you experience during those 20 seconds, I’m willing to bet that you’ll remember that experience more than you the majority of the day that follows.

Storm clouds from the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/1GYyplr

Storm clouds from the CAS gallery at http://bit.ly/1GYyplr

This last week, I made an effort to purposefully stop and watch clouds whenever I thought about them (perhaps more often than I normally would since I’ve had this post on my mind). It is really fantastic how even a few seconds of upward gazing calms me down and reminds me to take life slowly. I was also reminded that, although I really struggle with the short days this time of year,
the late sunrise and early sunset mean I get to experience the joy of both of these colorful displays most days. I love a good sunrise/sunset and you simply can’t get them without clouds; the sun has no canvas to paint on.

Sunrise from our garden this week.

Sunrise from my garden this week.

My challenge to you this week is to remember the clouds just once and take a few seconds to simply watch them and see what they are up to. That’s it. Twenty seconds of your week spent on a totally pointless activity. I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. What did you see? Did it make a difference in your day? Would you do it again? I’m always eager to hear your thoughts!

Postcard of the Week

With christmas around the corner, I’ve been doing a lot of “kid” things. Coloring is one of my favorite slow things to do and, much like cloud-watching, I think it gets unfairly slotted into the Things Kids Do and Adults Don’t Do category. I hope in the next post to change your mind about that.

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If I don’t see you again before Christmas, have a very merry day and remember to take it slowly and savor it!

See you next time! 

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Want a postcard? Send me your details here and I will send you one!


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2 thoughts on “Live With Your Head in the Clouds

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