It’s always good to look at clouds, as a later Celt or Druid etc, but it’s good to see ourselves as a twenty-first century cosmic‘ navigator’, and aware of nature.So, here’s a few ways that we can consider and look about clouds. The ancients, as well as scientific ways can lead after a few clouds.
“A Dream is where a boy can swim in the deepest oceans and fly over the highest clouds.” ( J. K. Rowling)
Since the dawn of time, when our first ancestors were capable of craning their necks and looking at nature in awe, the sky has mesmerised humankind. The blue sky, insects buzzing and birds flying, the stars in the night sky forming a myriad of patterns in which to form their mythology and track the course of time, enthralled the ancients. And clouds. Clouds, too, caught the imagination of those giants of old.
He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky…’ (Matthew 16:2-3a, The Book)
As I lay on a picnic blanket in Richmond Park, west London, as a child with my mother beside me, we played that game of looking up at the clouds and imagining what the various cloud shapes looked like. ‘It looks like a television’, my mother said. As the high winds slowly changed the cloud’s shape, I waited, laughed and then exclaimed loudly, ‘It now looks more like a whale.’ And, so it went on.
The ground we walk on, the plants and creatures, the clouds above constantly dissolving into new formations – each gift of nature possessing its own radiant energy, bound together by cosmic harmony. (Ruth Bernhard)
Ofcourse, years later, I learned more about clouds, was even more fascinated by it, and now I’d like to suggest how you can also love what each cloud means. Such as:
Stratus clouds are small, light, diffuse clouds. They are the kind of widespread cloud that uniformly blanket the whole sky, and which can be seen especially, but not only around mountains and coastal areas. Look out for light drizzle.
Stratocumulus clouds, about 7000 feet above us, are thick, but usually patchy clouds, with ‘gaps’ that allow you to see the blue sky occasionally, or if its near dawn or dusk allow the suns rays to shine through in several shafts of light. This effect is called crepuscular rays, God’s rays, Buddha rays or Jacob’s ladder.
The thickest and lowest clouds are cumulus clouds (see photo above). They’re usually fast, floating around, with puffy clouds with flat bases. Generally their upper parts often resemble cauliflowers, and they are not the harbingers of rain. But, it may be these that are the ‘shape-shifting’ clouds that, in my boyhood, resembled animals and inanimate objects.
Nimbostratus are usually middle (perhaps middle to low) clouds and can look grey, diffuse clouds and they can be seen as the harbinger of rain, (and depending on the seasons) they can hair or snow). See photo below.
Above these clouds are altocumulus clouds. They can be a multitude of rounded ‘clumps’ of cloud, almond shape, and resemble fish scales – hence it may be called a ‘mackerel’ sky.
Altostratus clouds are usually thin, featureless grey clouds. Usually thin enough to reveal the position of the sun, and sometimes the moon at night, and because these diffuse clouds may contain ice crystals you might also see a halo, a coloured ‘corona’ around the sun or moon in the clouds.
‘High-Flyer’s’ are cirrostratus clouds, ‘floating’ above 20000 feet, and could often be referred to as ‘the clouds that aren’t really there’, as they can cover hundreds of square miles, but can be so ‘thin’, so high and so subtle that they’re often overlooked by earth-bound observers.
“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.” ( Mark Twain)
Cirrus clouds, also known as ‘mares’ tails’ are fast-moving clouds, and are usually buffeted by high winds – think of aircraft turbulence; but because they can be so high, as anything far away, the ‘illusion’ is that they are slow moving. But, this isn’t the case. See photo below.
If there are to be any clouds about on a summer’s day, then the lofty cirrocumulus clouds are the ones that will delight. These clouds are high and are really tiny ‘cloudlets’, regularly spaced, and maybe with a ‘rippled’ effect. Cirrocumulus clouds tend to reflect the red and yellow colours during a sunset and sunrise, and so they have often been referred to as “one of the most beautiful clouds”. This occurs because they reflect the unscattered rays of light from the early morning or evening sun.
Conclusion: Next time you see a cloud (and it’s safe to do so), why not pause, and when you can, let me know what you ‘saw’, and if it had a deeper meaning to you. Perhaps the cloud shows your what science tells you about the weather etc, or perhaps the cloud has some kind of imaginative sky ‘drawn’ is for you,, or perhaps it is a ‘message’ from the Great Cloud-Giver? Happy cloud-spotting!