Clouds – of happiness or of sadness?

Clouds in my life

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore

I have always loved clouds – my family used to say I always had my head in the clouds – I always seemed to be daydreaming!

I loved the way clouds looked on a hot summer’s day – very white reaching incredibly high against the deep blue sky. And then the dark pewter-coloured clouds that heralded a storm, full of portent and drama, punctuated by flashes of lightning that sewed the sky to the earth in jagged stitches of light followed by deep roaring thunder echoing across the valleys of my childhood home.

Then often at sunset the pink cobblestone clouds shading to mauve and finally grey as the sun set left me full of wonder and sadness at the beauty and fragility of nature. Such clouds were a fitting prelude to the purple evening with its sounds of insects and birds’ calls, dogs barking in the distance and the flickering lights of hundreds of cooking fires on the hillsides.

Red in the morning – shepherd’s warning!

Red at night – shepherd’s delight!

I’m not sure that that rhyme is still applicable with all the atmospheric pollution around, but we do have the pollution to thank, in a perverse sort of way, for the beauty of the sunsets.

As I have grown older I have come to appreciate Tagore’s idea of the clouds “floating into my life” instead of wanting to grab hold of them, force them, because in the grabbing and the forcing I have found they are nothing – no weight, no substance. So best just to enjoy their colours, and the feeling of the cool mist on my face.

As a child in my home of Blythswood Missionary Institution, which was surrounded by rolling grassy hills, I used to love walking through the damp grass over the hills in the mist and sense rather than see the cattle grazing. And when it had rained quite hard I could hear the stream below rushing over the rocks in the valley, carrying a load of precious topsoil down to the sea.

All the trees, the oaks and the black wattles, the pine and the acacias, would have little round shiny beads of water fringing their leaves and the water would drop, cold, on my back as I walked beneath. And my feet and legs would be wet from the grass.

This puts me in mind of the quotation by modern minstrel Robert Wyatt: “I prefer the mystic clouds of nostalgia to the real thing, to be honest.”

Or the words of Nathaniel Hawthorn: “When scattered clouds are resting on the bosoms of hills, it seems as if one might climb into the heavenly region, earth being so intermixed with sky, and gradually transformed into it.”

But clouds are not only about peace and nostalgia, are they? There are angry clouds, clouds that being death and destruction to the earth below them, that cause havoc on roads and chaos in peoples’ lives.

Such were the clouds today – full of heavy loads of water which they dropped with fury onto us below, so that roads were impassable, homes were washed away, people left destitute just a few kilometres from where I live.

Then Milton’s words seem apt: The low'ring element

Scowls o'er the darken'd landscape. – Paradise Lost (bk. II, l. 490).

I think nature does it to us, like a pebble in the shoe, to keep us real, to keep us humble and connected to each other and the earth.

So clouds mean many things, and the meanings are what we people give them, poetic or realist, romantic or scientist, the clouds, if we lift our eyes up to them, can remind us of things we might otherwise forget, or bring us back to our roots. Shelley caught much of the incredible changeability of clouds in his gorgeous poem, The Cloud :

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,

As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under,

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.

“And laugh as I pass in thunder” – what a delightful anthropomorphism, what a wonderful image!

 

Some of my cloud photos

The low'ring element   Scowls o'er the darken'd landscape.
The low'ring element Scowls o'er the darken'd landscape.
often at sunset the pink cobblestone clouds shading to mauve
often at sunset the pink cobblestone clouds shading to mauve
Over the sea clouds often look most beautiful
Over the sea clouds often look most beautiful
Clouds over Struben Dam in Pretoria after some heavy rains recently
Clouds over Struben Dam in Pretoria after some heavy rains recently
Such were the clouds today
Such were the clouds today
full of heavy loads of water which they dropped with fury onto us below
full of heavy loads of water which they dropped with fury onto us below
so that roads were impassable
so that roads were impassable

Copyright notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2009

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Comments 17 comments

Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

Thank you for beautiful pxs.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

Lovely photos! Thanks! :)


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Great photos -- and some neat observations, too.


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

some amazing writing of your own, nicely blended with the words of poets and great pictures.


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Beautiful words and photos. Nice to look at before going to sleep. When I was a little girl, about 5, I thought (really!), that clouds where sheep in the sky, and I used to chase them by running towards the shape of the clouds. My mate loves this story as he likes to visualize me chasing them. LOL!


Laila Rajaratnam profile image

Laila Rajaratnam 7 years ago from India

Hi..Tony..clouds of happiness or sadness?But then,I loved the 'my head in the clouds'because that's what many used to say of me too!LOL.Infact..I always felt that I had my head in the clouds!:)Thanks for the wonderful hub but I was always terrified of the grey menacing clouds!:)


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

Beautiful words and nice photos


Madison Parker profile image

Madison Parker 7 years ago from California

Beautiful photos and lovely sentiment. Nature does keep us humble. I live near the ocean and when I walk near the water, I look out to see and realize how small and insignificant I am in the scope of things! Rather than seeming depressing, it reminds that my problems aren't really such a big deal, as well!


Russ Baleson profile image

Russ Baleson 7 years ago from Sandhurst, United Kingdom

Hi Tony, I really liked this, thank you! I still miss "the sounds of insects and birds’ calls, dogs barking in the distance and the flickering lights of hundreds of cooking fires on the hillsides". I long for the African sounds and am delighted that special people like you don't take it for granted.

Russ


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 7 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks to you all for your great and much appreciated comments.

Love and peace to you all

Tony

PS - Russ, we miss you too!


glyn 7 years ago

I am still finding my way into this exraordinary website but loving every moment of it and the amount of enthusiasm and creativity hat you are pouring into this Tony is inspiring. More more more!


tipperary profile image

tipperary 6 years ago

Lovely story, i can tell you appreciate the simple important things in life. Love the pictures, will come back and read more soon.!


JTN 6 years ago

Your descriptions are amazing


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

JTN - thanks for the visit and the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


Leann Zarah profile image

Leann Zarah 5 years ago

Hey, Tony. Nice hub here. You just gave me an idea of turning a series of pics into a story poem akin to a photo documentary (not sure if that makes sense). Each line of the poem will serve as the caption of each photo. The clouds do tell a story. An imaginative and insightful writer like you creates that for them. Carry on. :)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Leann - thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such an intersting comment. I have had similar thoughts. Working on something right now, not quite what I think you have in mind, but another combination of photos and poems.

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


Leann Zarah profile image

Leann Zarah 5 years ago

Looking forward to reading your upcoming hub, Tony. :)

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