There is a spectacular nature show happening above, all you have to do is look up.
Last night walking home after eating dinner out in Brooklyn, I looked up at the sky and gasped. It was not one of those day-glo crazy sunset skies; but the clouds above were plump and ombre in violet and gray, floating in ripples of cotton-candy pink. It was subtle but so stunning – I couldn't believe that nobody else was staring at the sky, mouth agape.
I have been thinking about "plant blindness" lately – a term coined by a pair of botanists, who defined it as “the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment.” And I wondered if there was a similar term for clouds.The ramifications of plant blindness are more troubling, to be sure, but it seems like a lot people do not take the time to appreciate the natural world at large – and that can't be a good thing.
Now of course, I live in New York City where we have much more important things to do than observe nature – we seem immune to the flora and fauna here, let alone the clouds. I imagine that people elsewhere take more time to admire the sky.
Fortunately, NYC has a lot of urban trees and greenspace for us city mice to get a nature fix – but that doesn't help so much when stuck inside gazing out a window or walking through a concrete and steel valley of high-rises. That's when it's time for some cloudspotting.
It is an ever-changing show up there. Of course, some days will be cloudless – but on days when clouds grace us with their presence, what a spectacle! They come in shifting shapes and sizes, creating layers that traverse the sky at different speeds. They come in endless textures and patterns, sometimes solo, sometimes covering the sky like lace. They form creatures and tell stories, while holding nuances of color that put a painter's palette to shame. And all of this is going on right above our heads; why aren't we looking up all the time? I mean, it's probably good that we are not, but you know what I mean.
There has been loads of research on the benefits for mind and body of spending time in nature; even just observing nature around oneself has been proven to be salubrious. While most of the nature-wellness connection research centers around greenery, I think it's impossible that observing clouds wouldn't have a healthful effect.
If nothing else, it's a time for contemplation, mindfulness, and meditation. In this rapid-paced world filled with a constant influx of news, noise, and other assorted mayhem, getting lost in the clouds, even if just for a few minutes, is a welcome and easy reprieve.
I am obviously not the first person to sing the praises of clouds. They have played an important role in various cultural and religious traditions throughout time. And there is even a Cloud Appreciation Society! I'd say their manifesto sums things up nicely:
The Cloud Appreciation Society Manifesto
- WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.
- We think that they are Nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.
- We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.
- We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of a person’s countenance.
- We believe that clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save money on psychoanalysis bills.
And so we say to all who’ll listen: Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and always remember to live life with your head in the clouds!