Clouds: art in the sky
Whether we see the sky as a lid shutting us in; a window into infinity; or a perpetual art gallery enticing our imaginations, depends partly on our mood. It also depends on how much sky we are fortunate enough to see.
The Te Reo name of New Zealand is ‘Aotearoa’ – it means ‘the long white cloud’. We are the land of Aotearoa.
A long, narrow landmass surrounded by the distant horizons of the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean on the other, Aotearoa enjoys a lot of sky. And those of us whose welfare, tree plantings and water tanks depend on rainfall are consummate sky watchers – even shouting at passing rain clouds that have declined to leave us a drop of rain…again.
If our mood affects perception of our surroundings, the reverse is also true. I have felt the sky as a heavy lid when visiting the city of Seoul in South Korea: it looked like congealed porridge without feature and I felt oppressed.
In the vast open steppes of Mongolia, fringed in the far distance by purple-hued mountains, I looked up into clear blue radiance without limit. There was no ‘sky’ as such, only a pure translucency into the eternal space of an infinite universe. It allows the soul to soar to boundless heights.
And in the narrowest Far North of Aotearoa, the sky is a perpetual art gallery that never ceases to entertain and inspire me. I agree heartily with John Lubbock: “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
As metaphor in literature and proverb, clouds usually presage trouble, worries weighing us down, even if there might be a ‘silver lining’. The poet, Rabindranath Tagore, turned the metaphor around to write about achieving a more positive view of life: “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.”
Clouds’ presence can enhance both sunrise and sunset, and during the day, their forms and antics incite many a story or even a cartoon strip as in Charles Schultz’s, Peanuts – “Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton…I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by…if you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations…What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”
What do you see in the clouds, Reader? In the following images taken at various times around my home, I have seen angels, dinosaurs, wheel tracks, space-ships, freight trains, birds, mountains and human faces. I leave you to see what you will…