The language of the sky

Being an arborist entails looking up a lot, and having an uncommon relationship with the earth and sky. I used to climb trees. I admit I still do, occasionally. Having a three dimensional perspective of space and gravity, is somehow, a very sober experience in the living arms of a tree. The abundance of upwardness and downward possibilities leaves little room for wandering thoughts at fifty feet. Presence of mind is paramount. An intimacy come with climbing. The tree is firm but yielding. It moves, and moves me. It makes the wind visible and visceral in its dance.
In touch with the sky, with only the dormant twigs between me and the entire atmosphere, I live and breath weather. Its moods and patterns have become so familiar to me, that I am surprised only by being surprised at all. I can’t think about it while reaching for a branch or feeling for a foothold. It is just there, surrounding me with its pervasive presence. I am in it outwardly, and it, inwardly in me. The weather may be cold, and heedless, but I create enough warmth and care by meeting it more than half way.
Common things are still uncommon to many. It never grows old, to point out the ways of the sun and sky to my trainees. Landscapers by chance or choice, they have usually trained their attentions on the land itself, never aware of gravity as a mortal issue. Weather may have alternately baked and buffeted them, but it was not their focus. As groundsmen to an arborist, they spend a lot of hours with their necks craned skyward for the first time. It is awakening when more than rain could fall! Awake is the best way to learn, and they do. Climbing brings awake to a new level.
Clouds have consequences. You want to know what a cloud holds in store, if you work in weather. Clouds are far more tangible than almost anything else in the sky. They are the easiest elements of the atmosphere to observe. Like trees, they too, give the wind a voice, but also a language. Like much of nature, the language of clouds is predictable and repetitive, but it reaches to another order of magnitude of power and nuance. Clouds are all about darkness and light, and reveal unimaginable energies from beyond the limits of our horizons. They seem to bring the future with them. Learning the language of clouds is one of the first steps away from the gravity and present tense of earthward focus.
There is no longer any doubt while in a tree, where light originates. Earthly reflections are so obviously secondary when the sky come into play. Enveloped in sky, the power of this upper light at midday is unrelenting. The tree reaches for a reason. In a twilight that sends the ground crew packing, I still have an hour of good light up here.
Brightness holds dimensions, rhythms and mysteries of its own. Halfway between midday and either twilight comes the time of the arcs. These fleeting half-haloes are almost unknown to those who rarely raise their eyes above the brims of their hats. Looking skyward, when the angle of the sun is right and the weather is crystallizing for rain, I often see these luminescent arcs around the zenith appear briefly, spread, and disappear. They are the celestial cousins of rainbows, smiling colorfully sunward from the very top of the sky. So few people know of them that they have no common name in our vernacular. Yet, there they are, shining in all their refractive glory, right above our heads, several times a month. Rare sights, so beautiful, strike a childlike awe in the heart. I am never far from awe when an arc appears. However, I most enjoy seeing their reflection in the newly opened eyes of others.
We run. We climb. But who knows which is more ancestral to human life? Earth pulls with an embrace that is almost irresistible. But so does the sky. I love learning the language of them both.

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