A lifelong love of clouds has made me a skygazer since childhood


Clouds signify the intermediate world between the visible and the hidden, the present and the absent. They are symbolic of forms as phenomena always in a state of metamorphosis, which both obscure and present the immutable quality of higher truth.

Author not known

I always look up at the skies when I am outdoors. And even when I am driving.

I spotted this bumper sticker the other day and had to laugh: “I brake for interesting cloud formations” That’s me, for sure.

Illuminated clouds mirror the very essence of this fragile world we inhabit, reflections of the miracle of creation because nothing as sublime as a sunset, or brilliantly lit up clouds with sunbeams, can exist just on the whim of chance in a dark and impersonal universe. I just don’t believe it.

Are the intricate patterns of snowflakes merely random ojbects of exquisite beauty when each one is completely different from any other one? Uncounted trillions of them. Are waterfalls not beyond any mortal artist’s ability to conceive, such is their capacity to awe and inspire.

Many years ago I wrote an essay on the subject of clouds, and a friend in Australia emailed me about it. I probably haven’t re-read it since it was sent in August of 2002. I was doing a lot of emailing with people who read my first online journal so back in 1998, or who had their own Web pages for personal writing. I recently discovered a copy of her email that I had printed out in a folder of random documents from that time period. Remember, it’s very difficult for me to throw out anything.

Lesley, as I came to realize, was an extraordinary person who I now believe was a sensitive, an adept who was highly intuitive and had psychic abilities. But I had only hints of this back then. We chatted and emailed often and even talked on the phone a few times. But that all lasted only a couple of years, and I lost touch with her. I have no idea what happened to her and her husband, and two beautiful children. This is one of those regrets in life that hit hard in old age when you know so much more about what certain friends from the past meant then and how rare and special they were. But the friendships have slipped away so long ago, one is left only with memories, emails, and saved examples of their writing. I suppose it was because email was still somewhat novel 20 years ago, but for whatever reason, I printed out all my email correspondence from 1999-2003, and transcripts of chats from the period 2003-2009, and it all ended up in half a dozen boxes, most of which I still have. I have lots of written records of my past, in other words.

I have re-read Lesley’s email a couple of times now, and realize now how very much we had in common. I am amazed that she wanted to communicate with me at such depth. But the Internet made it all possible — she in Australia and me in South Carolina — worlds apart.

In that decades-ago essay, I had described a massive line of brightly illuminated noonday cumulus clouds, which seemed fixed in place and unchanging in the sky, comparing it to a “stalled armada” of cloud-like ships. This turn of phrase delighted her, and set off a train of her own thoughts about clouds, which evidently astonished and entranced her as much as they did me.

She wrote about this “word picture”:

How apt!…I found myself saying, ‘Yes, yes! That’s it.’ Since my early morning walks back in December, I have been enthralled by the sky, clouds in particular. When I look at them these days, it feels as if I have stepped into a glorious painting. I see something otherworldly, something so beautiful I can barely believe it’s real. I imagined this is how it would be viewed by a first-time visitor to the little blue planet that beckoned to them through space, light years away. I’ve always appreciated Nature, but this is different. It’s almost mysticsl. And the most amazing thing is that it happens every single day, no matter how ‘ordinary’ a sky. It’s a wonderful gift and I feel quite blessed.

And how blessed I was to have briefly known her. It’s mysterious how people such as Lesley come into our lives for a brief window of time, and then are gone. I think sometimes they maybe are special beings sent here to enlighten and help us on our way. Perhaps Lesley felt that way about me. It makes me feel all the more fortunate that I am so attuned to Nature in its every aspect, and always have been.

I will always be a cloud and sky gazer. I seek light, and the sky is the window through which I see beyond my finite existence. Every beautiful landscape, every lovely close-up of a flower or glimpse of a beautful bird in flight is also a portal through which to enter other worlds within and outside my own. Can you even imagine what those those other dimensions or universes are like? One day I hope to have answers revealed to me.

The poet William Wordsworth penned these immortal words in his great poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” It’s always been one of my favorite poems.

And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy
of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
of something far more deeply interfused,
whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
a motion and a spirit, that impels
all thinking things, all objects of all thought,
and rolls through all things.

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January 6, 2024

One thing I missed moving from North Dakota to southern Minnesota was the white fluffy clouds. You wouldn’t think the clouds would be much different but southern MN is much more humid than ND, and the clouds are gray instead of white, except for those few crisp fresh days when the clouds aren’t laden with the extra moisture. I thought maybe I had created this fantasy idea of perfect white fluffy clouds, but a visit to my home state confirmed it was true.

I’m usually looking up at the sky too when walking or driving, but it is more to admire the beauty of a soaring hawk or eagle.

January 7, 2024

@elkay Oh, I love to see soaring hawks and other such magnificent birds, but it’s  rare to see them in the city.  But clouds are everywhere. 🙂

January 6, 2024

And then of course there’s that beautiful Joni Mitchell song which features a verse about clouds – Judy Collins dd a wonderful version that featured a harpsichord.

January 7, 2024

@ravdiablo  Oh, of course.  Thanks for reminding me of that beautiful song I remember from my youth.  I must go back and listen to both versions! 🙂

January 6, 2024

I was actually thinking about this today – after reading the obit of a woman I knew.  I knew her when our kids were in the same preschool – in the early 90’s – and thought to myself that even though we never became close friends, and our paths diverged as our kids grew in different directions, she was one of those beacons of light we run into on our life’s path.  Sounds like Lesley was such for you.

January 7, 2024

@onlysujema That’s a perfect description of the effect Lesley had on me.  So intelligent, spiritual and deeply sensitive.  It’s been 20 years, but remember her so clearly. A true “beacon of light.”