Clouds are larger than they look, and less substantial. It’s hard to get them in perspective. The sky takes up half of our world. And yet we don’t often have that upper half in sight; or even in mind. And when we do tilt our head back and fill our soul with what lies above, everything that would give us a sense of scale becomes inconsequential by comparison. We tend to forget the things we were so busy with beneath our brow; below the brim of our hat. Things have substance; The sky is different; We don’t naturally behold both at once.
Our head is held high…and still…for a reason; For reasoning. We suffer natively from any extreme change in its position. How satisfying is a view of the distant horizon, simply because it fills our heart with a balance of earth and sky; Of Heaven and Earth; while our head is resting upright; And able to ponder.
I had a child in class who would look up at the chalkboard to copy a word I had written. When she would look down to write it, it had disappeared from her mind’s eye. When I had her hold her writing vertically, in the plane of the board, she had no difficulty. Nor did she have difficulty transposing words from a sheet held horizontally where she was writing at her desk. The words were simply lost in the re-orientation of her head. We studied the clouds. We drew clouds. We danced every day. She gradually formed a beautiful inner poise in movement, in social grace and in learning.
Vigorous practice in the vertical world helps us orient. Stillness helps us ponder. But to see the whole world as one, in all its dimensions, we need to become inwardly poised, and up-gather it into our own singular space, despite our outer movements.
Clouds are to be pondered as much as observed. None is the same. Nor do they stay the same for even a moment. But they are all familiar. They come in categories. They can be recognized by their momentary form and elevation. Hints of their common origin and more recent lineage come with observation. And the progress of their development speaks about where they are going, and where things go from here. With patience, we can learn to recognize their story lines, and what they are foretelling about this afternoon, tonight and even a day or two from now.
Clouds are made out of heat and air and light, with the thinnest veil of water to give themselves visibility. They wheel and wrap their wisps into every imaginable shape and size, and at times, will gather to fill the whole huge sky. Even a single cloud can occupy a portion of that vast stretch above, and silently become the largest momentary thing around. Sometimes they hang darkly overhead, looming larger than life, and more menacing than their common components would conjure on their own. Sometimes they spread, radiant as angel wings, from zenith to horizon on either side. They frame the mood of the sky. They are made of movement…and of devoted resignation to the larger motions of the sun and the spin of the earth.
However firmly or eyes are set on horizontal, our thoughts don’t stop there. Hence, the shape of our own often-beclouded dome mirrors that of the sky.