I remember cloud-watching as a six-year-old — on the field in front of the school I went to. I recall lying on my back, gazing at the movement of the clouds. Wondering in awe at their rapid motion, their transience of form. They spiraled above me, coursing beyond my view.
To a certain extent, I think there’s something human about the cloud. Or something cloud-like about the human being. The changes I’ve undergone and undergo – both internally and externally – have compelled me to liken my existence to that of a cloud. I feel their volatility, their constant transfiguring. In this post, I examine some of the different forms of clouds and how they are reflective of some of the states of a human being.
Rosy clouds are the stuff of quiet nights and summer winds. The kind that often forms the backdrop for photos and portraits. They compose our dream state, the vapor in which we reminisce and love and laugh. The clouds we dip our glasses in to get the crimson shade that romanticizes our world.
Through rosy clouds, we access our imagination. We embrace our befuddled thoughts and dance in warm reveries of the past and future.
Yet, even in the splendor of rosy clouds that tumble within us, there is a sense of termination. They mark the death of something — of lovely moments, of childhood, of a relationship — and the birth of something else.
"Evening, walk in gardens of the Palace [the royal château] -- sociable Englishman hovering about us -- our street [in town] a very noisy one -- jovial blacksmiths hammering and singing duets -- accompanied by anvil -- clanking of sabres -- a body of lancers [cavalry soldiers] quartered here -- lounging about streets -- horses dallying by -- arrival and depart of diligences -- groups of young lancers about cafés. In other parts of the palace a contrast is offered by silent, deserted palaces. Fine effect of moonlight in the garden and after leaving the Palace -- the moon crescent seen over pinnacles of the Palaces mingled with trees of the Queen's garden. In the garden is a fountain of white stone or marble with bronze stage -- beautiful sunset in garden -- rosy clouds." - Washington Irving, "Moonlight in the Château Garden" (Excerpt taken from George Myersons' A Private History of Happiness)
Snowstorm, Mont Cenis is my favorite painting by Joseph M. W. Turner. The clouds seem to shake, to shudder above the carriages. Their arms flail, flounder — a critical moment, a point of urgency. The neutral palette of greys and blues and browns pronounce the “dread,” as Edmund Burke names it, characteristic of the sublime. The men and carriages sway beneath the swaying clouds.
Snow brings beauty and captivity. The purity of a fresh snowfall conflicts with the ache of winters long in isolation. Snow clouds are the thoughts of grief, of uncertainty that writhe within our souls. The moments when the world inside — and, by extension, outside — is hazy and grey. But our cloud-like souls are shaped by the torment, the throes. An element of beauty falls after a snowstorm, like a child born from labor. Grief and beauty are intertwined in change.
White clouds are with us every day, like white sailboats in the lake of life. They’re the feelings, the perceptions that steadily guide us through wind, snow, and sun.
At heart, we can move on like clouds, as we change and the world changes, for, amidst change, we are shaped by beauty.