In groundhog fashion last week I exited from my hole to case the joint and test the weather. The outdoor nature of March is well defined in its quirkiness: In like a lion, out like a a lamb.
My Mother was one for legendizing birthdays – “I went in the hospital to have you wearing a wool coat and came out wearing shorts.” This made a lot of sense because I’ve always balked at seasonal dressing.
Except when it comes to red lipstick which I am fastidious about reapplying each time I come out of the hollow. I’m not sure why, but even under a mask, red lipstick signals my brain that I have advocacy work to do. Though once outside the door, I realize that the task of cloudspotting needs no mask…all the better to kiss the sky.
The practice of writing a weekly enchantment has revealed a few sacred themes of which I had previously been unconscious. Though I’ve never heard one medical professional prescribe time outdoors for the purpose of healing, for me it has been paramount in the annals of get well soon. I distinctly recall baking out a case of the measles while baking in a new home perm. Convalescing in a nylon folding chair was the blessed assurance that sun and fresh air would wrap up both jobs. My Mother was one for multitasking too.
While wintering this year, I read that doctors in Scotland write outdoor time into their patients’ treatment plans. As they should. They are rugged individualists who likely have not forgotten that we lived in nature for a couple of million years before hunkering down into sheltered environments with non stop screen time.
I must admit as a child I was a bit of a milquetoast preferring dolls and dress up with short jaunts outside to retrieve props. Mimosa blooms, sticks, magnolia leaves, Johnny Jump Ups, smooth rocks and often a teacup of mud paste which was indispensable while pretending, but explain that to my Mother who worried when she discovered it in my candy-hoarding drawer.
My introduction to the outdoors really began with the reading of Winnie the Pooh (Enchantment Number 32 – It Takes Two ). Noting that Pooh dressed up as a cloud to solve a problem, I ventured out to pretend as such. Lacking the regalia, I sought my Mother who was the first to point out the mesmerism of clouds. Intros began with the fluffy white fairy tale clouds called cumulus, the types that paint pictures in the sky.
Cloudspotting is a new term, but I began to play the game when assorted relatives would say, “Hey lookie, up there in the sky!” “Do you see that woman with her hair in a bun stirring the pot over a fire?” “See her puffy nose, and then her hair, how about the spoon and the way she is bending over at the waist?”
“Well maybe,” I would say as a young pleaser. Still the more I relaxed into the everyday meditation sort of fun, the more I became surprised at what it had to offer. And one did not have to actually find a broad space of dry ground to lounge and study the heavens, clouds are happening most every day at the tilt of the head. The only caveat was that you must remember to pay attention and pull over if necessary. Ethereal cloud formations are always there unless, alas, there are blue skies.
The pastime followed me to college. One spring day while cloudspotting on the slopes of the Sardis Lake Dam, a friend suggested that “we were living in the atmosphere of a cloud,” a mind bending curiosity only to be coupled with the still stranger fact that deep down under the reservoir there were catfish as big as cars. Soon after seeking evidence, I made my first airplane trip with said friend to observe clouds from the inside out.
Such chapters make for the unfurling of exactly why I have been drawn to the commonplace cloud. It turns out that they are both nostalgic and they escalate the pursuit of doing nothing. Perhaps the best of news is as British author Gavin Pretor-Pinney says, “Clouds are the most diverse, evocative, poetic aspect of nature.”
I remember the day many years ago when I first heard Mr. Pretor-Pinney on NPR. He had become smitten with the habit of observing the frequent depiction of clouds in art. Huh? His comments were worth a pull over because I was driving along Highway 31 and simultaneously became befuddled by a spectacular panorama of clouds in the shape of a galloping mule.
You should know that I live in Columbia, Tennessee, the home of Mule Day. I don’t know if the analysis of the cloud formation was the product of an overstimulated early childhood or the semblance of a Rorschach test in cloud form, but I would never take the pursuit of cloudspotting for granted again.
To this day Gavin Pretor-Pinney is out there reminding listeners of the egalitarianism of nature’s display because everyone on the planet can look up and appreciate a cloud. The best place to view the exotic is where ever you are. And please, in the process grab the nearest child as they must be introduced.
It took a pandemic to recall his long ago radio invitation, but after a few rounds of earthing (Enchantment Number 25 – Green Pastures), a cherished friend’s prompt and the survey of the sun bursting from behind a cloud, I signed up for The Cloud Appreciation Society http://cloudappreciationsociety.org as the tiny animal that I am and now member number 55,160.