Tuesday, 22 April 2014

These are the clouds my friends

In my family, it's my sister Anna who is the cloud expert. From her studies in climatology she knows the names of all the different types, and she knows the science behind how they're formed and how each type behaves. She's even a card-carrying member of some dubious organisation called the Cloud Appreciation Society.

While I don't have any of these formal qualifications, I think that I too am a cloud lover. Not just the big fluffy white ones that look like animals or toasters or things - though these certainly are amazing (I'm pretty sure they're called cumulonimbus). I love too the dark layer way out over the ocean with diagonal lines coming down, where the rain is falling, though to my eyes it appears a stationary grey mass. I love the storm clouds advancing from the south on a summer afternoon; a swirling blackness devouring the sky, their arrival heralded by the mad delight of leaves and litter dancing in the street. I love it when there are two types of clouds in the sky at once - the low lying wispy ones scudding lightly along so close you feel you could grab hold of them, and the higher, more aloof ones which float by at their own dignified  pace. I love the collection of squiggles, lines and shapes stretching away to the horizon that can make a look up to the sky such a wonderfully distracting experience.

And then there's the way the clouds dance around with the sun, veiling and unveiling, changing colour and shape as I watch. Oh, the sunrises and sunsets I've seen made a thousand times more spectacular by the blushing and ever-changing clouds. A sky-show that kings and emperors could not but be impressed by.

Considering how much beauty and diversion clouds bring to the world, I think they've had a rough trot in the English language. The connotations of clouds are always negative. What's all this about people being "under a cloud of suspicion" when they've been implicated in bad behaviour? Why don't you hear of happy people, whose life is just falling into place described as being "under a cloud of contentment"? Clouded judgment- bad. Head in the clouds - bad. I suppose there is cloud nine, which is undoubtedly a good place to be, but that begs the question - are the other eight clouds all evil?

It seems like we've forgotten that clouds are the carriers of rain, a replenishing and vital part of the cycle of life on earth. Maybe it's got something to do with our simplistic black and white view of things. Sun is good, rain is bad, nothing in between. It could be that clouds, in their never ending, always changing complexity and diversity, give us all the shades of grey.

Rain in the distance, Grampians VIC

Wispy goodness, Grampians

A flock of sunset clouds, Grampians VIC

Mallacoota, VIC


East coast Tassie

Sunset on the Nullarbor

Sunset, Lucky Bay WA

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