With myriad weather patterns blowing in rain, sleet, snow, and hail during the wildly wet winter months, clouds of all descriptions were unquestionably in abundance. Did you know that clouds can be a source of deep importance, not only for weather but for the sheer enjoyment of ‘non-doing’? Watching clouds is sometimes practiced as a meditation or mindfulness practice. We Americans seem to find it challenging to sit still and do nothing. However, allowing for downtime is a sure way to refill the coffers of energy and creativity, and it is ultimately down-right satisfying to immerse oneself in nature in this manner.
National Geographic’s website discusses the benefits of getting your head in the clouds, and how cloud watching can not only allow for lessons in both science and creativity, but cloud gazing helps build the ability to observe while benefiting our mental health.
Cloud Appreciation Society founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney gave a Ted Talk on the subject of the idle pursuit of cloud watching. He discussed the science behind the simple art of observing the fluffy drifting shapes. Not only that, he explained that there are now a dozen more names for cloud formations that have been added to the International Cloud Atlas, the official collection of detailed cloud information. Added to the compendium are clouds such as Asperitas, Volutus, Cataractagenitus and more!
Observing clouds provides endless appeal as their shape change into wild and wonderful forms. Clouds can also be thought of as aerial weather labs for predicting weather. Each layer of Earth’s atmosphere allows you to ‘read’ what is going on high above you.
Humans have undoubtedly always been attuned to clouds and their various formations, but clouds weren’t classified scientifically until the French naturalist Chevalier de Lamarck published a cloud-type paper simultaneous with Luke Howard, an English chemist who wrote a literary essay on clouds called “On the Modification of Clouds.” Modern weather forecasters divide Luke Howard’s cloud categories into groups that describe ‘heaped’ clouds that cause unstable air currents, and ‘layered’ clouds that make their origins in stable air.
Audubon’s ‘Field Guide to Weather’ allows you to become a connoisseur of clouds by naming a variety of fluffy, billowy stuff. You will gain a lexicon including the term Fibratus or clouds that appear nearly straight or have curved bits like cirrus clouds. Nebulous clouds are those without pronounced features, while Fractus clouds are shredded in appearance. Dozens of enchanting words exist in the naming of clouds!
Consider this as an invitation to daydream and allow your brain to recharge as we did as children when we gazed skyward to discover elephants and other animals parading across the sky. What could be more mesmerizing than observing the speeding masses of moisture as they zip across the horizon, changing color and shape along the way? Send in the clouds!
Singer/ songwriters Judy Collins Joni Mitchell said it best in a popular 1968 song when they said,
“Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air.
And feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way”.