Oh, America. We’re living in some challenging times.
Last night, Las Vegas experienced the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Puerto Rico, hit by two hurricanes in 10 days, is in critical need. East Texas and Florida are still recovering from devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma. Unpredictable and inexperienced world leaders control nuclear weapons. Cyber security has become an oxymoron. Tempers are flaring, divisions are widening, racial tensions are rising, and statements seem to have replaced respect when it comes to observing the national anthem and receiving a gift of Dr. Seuss books.
So what’s a fitting blog post from a photographer? I’m not really sure, but I think we — all of us — need to pause, take a few deep breaths and begin the process of healing. Look for those things that unite instead of divide or incite us.
Perhaps today’s topic should simply be clouds. Innocent, fleeting, ethereal clouds. Clouds which force us to look up and be hopeful. Clouds which rekindle our childlike curiosity and wonder. Clouds which have inspired artists for centuries and recently me when attending “Thin Air,” Catherine Erb’s exhibit of clouds at the David Lusk Gallery in Nashville.
So here we go, with a little cloud therapy.
Remember as a child looking up at the sky and imagining the various white puffy cumulus clouds to be a whale or a duck or something else familiar to you? And as you grew a little older, you started discovering the rich colorful palettes of a sunrise or sunset? What about all those other times in between when you just happened to look up and notice a quiet or bold beautiful patch of clouds in the sky? How did that make you feel?
Recently I’ve been reading the poetry of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver. From her collection of poems titled Evidence (Beacon Press 2009), in a poem titled “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass,” she writes:
… I have become a child of the clouds, and of hope. I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is. I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned, I have become younger …
And from her poem titled “It Was Early:”
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
I love that line.
Now consider this sentiment from Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, who introduced us to Snoopy and Lucy and Charlie Brown:
Aren’t the clouds beautiful? I could lie here all day, and watch them drift by.
But I can’t, and chances are you can’t, but we can perhaps now, just for a little while.
Feel a little better?
I think when we look up and see eye-catching or beautiful clouds in the sky, we should make the most of that moment. After all, the sky will never have looked quite that way in the past nor will it ever look quite that way in the future. It’s the present — both “the now” and a gift — which we then hold. And I think wherever we stand (or whatever we stand for), we should consider that moment not only a gift, but as Mary Oliver says, a blessing.
Thanks for blessing me with your presence today. I’m looking forward to a busy but beautiful month of pleasing fall color.