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!
- Cloud Meditation For Stressed People
First of all you need to find a suitable to practise your cloud meditation. Ideally you should be outside, in a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed. Laying on the grass looking up at the sky is perfect....
- Clouds & Reflections
While working through my archives on search for a specific image, I stumbled upon a folder that I had last added to a couple of months ago.
Some of my cloud photos
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