Monday, August 29

Cloud illusions for adults

picture by © Richard Collins
Rushing from one thing to the next, every so often I get this flashback. There we are - mum, my brother & me lying on the beach, toes dug deep into the warm sand, watching clouds. We have all the time in the world. The only limit is our imagination’s capacity to spot cloud shapes before they dissolve.
picture by © Richard Collins

"Rows and flows of angel hair,
And ice cream castles in the air,
And feather canyons everywhere,
I've looked at clouds that way."
( Both Sides Now / Joni Mitchell)

Isn’t cloud watching for kids?
Take sculptors for example – they often say that they only carved out a shape that was already inherent in the stone. Using our imagination to see things is the source of creativity, and cloud watching is a good way to develop this creative spark.

It’s also a great way to slow down & clear the head. According to the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society Gavin Pretor-Pinney, cloud watching is an antidote to modern life: “it is the futility of it that is important” he explains in an interview. It is because we are so focused on doing to achieve, he says, that we need more futile things in our lives.

And according to this Society’s manifesto, “clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save on psychoanalysis bills.”

Strong arguments. The problem is that most of us can’t remember how to do it.
  picture by Richard Collins

"I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow,
It's cloud illusions I recall,
I really don't know clouds at all."
( Both Sides Now / Joni Mitchell)

Cloud Watching Lessons for Adults 
All is not lost though. An inspired English teacher, F D Poston, explains in his wonderful article Poetry and Cloud watching, that it’s best to treat poetry more like watching clouds just a few minutes before sundown. Here’s an outline of some of his secrets to effective cloud watching:
  1. Don’t force it - the harder you try to make a cloud look like a walrus, the more it looks like a cloud.
  2. Kick back, relax, and let your mind wander into that state where it's open and playful. When you learn to trust your brain to do what it's there for, you suddenly see more with far less effort and little or no stress. Suddenly the sky fills with dragons morphing into terriers and teddy bears.
  3. The Revelation - as you play with the clouds, more and more possibilities unfold, and if nobody else quite agrees that one of those clouds is a duck, that's fine. After a while, the sun lowers enough to begin filling the clouds with colour, and another new world opens as you feel a revelation coming on. 

More Cloud Watching Ideas For Beginners:
Jar-cloud watching
  • Warm-ups – check the link and try some cloud shape spotting in the safe environment of your computer screen. 
  • Clouds in a Jar - make some fluffy clouds in a jar from jello & cream according to the instructions on this website, spot some cloud shapes and then quickly eat the lot, sky & clouds. It’s also bound to cheer any kid, including the kid in you. 
  • Virtual clouds watching – the Cloud Appreciation Society’s website has many beautiful cloud videos & photos (and anything else cloud related) ; you could also get started with the video below. 
Good luck.

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