I am not a cloud expert. I don’t look up in the sky and say “oh, that’s a cumulonimbus cloud, rain is on the way”, although I suspect rain is more likely to come from one of the other seven varieties of cloud, the nimbostratus. And I say that only because in the pictures of these eight cloud types, the nimbostratus is the dark, thick one, that threatens, suggesting imminent rain.
However, I do love clouds. And if my iPhone photo library is any guide, I do have an obsession with the sky … sunsets, sunrises, clouds, hot air balloons in the sky, you get my point.
But yesterday was something else again. There I was in row 4F of a domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne witnessing my own personal show of God’s handiwork in its full, magnificent glory. And no doubt you, too, might find yourself seeking “that perfect shot”.
26 photos later they all look pretty perfect. Not because of the holder of the iPhone. Of course not. There is one reason, and one reason only. I was witnessing the unveiling of God’s handiwork as the clouds formed and dispersed, the sun started dipping towards the horizon, and as it passed through and around the cloud formations, it turned the waters below into rivers of gold, with shimmering gems dotting the horizon, as if lighting up a hidden passage.
I was overwhelmed by this extraordinary display of beauty. My favourite painting of all time is Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone. The stars, and the reflection of gas lights on the water, leap out of the canvas as if they are alive. Van Gogh understood the wonders of the natural world and, without a camera, relying only on his ability with paint and a canvas, transports us into another realm.
We are children of the Creator. He made us in his image. We too are creators. I struggle to find words for the beauty around me. The range of colours and petals one might find in a rose. The remarkable kangaroo, loping graciously or bounding as it follows its mob. Who could have thought up such a creature? The reliability of the seasons, enabling farmers, gardeners, animals, birds, and other flora and fauna, to plant and grow; hibernate and sprout; procreate, wither, and die. All so poetically expressed in Ecclesiastes.
And clouds! Well, we certainly know the Greek Gods are not in the clouds looking down on us earthlings and determining our fate because we 21st-century humans fly above the clouds. We know that clouds are porous, even though they can lead to turbulent flights now and then.
I too was floating on rolling carpets of clouds, wanting to follow the yellow brick road unfurling below me.
But the fact of the cloud is different from its beauty. A colleague sent me Czeslaw Milosz’s poem On Prayer, after I shared a couple of these photos. Kylie was spot on. Perhaps Milosz had been daydreaming, staring up at the clouds as he let his mind wander into that place of creativity and wonder.
I am not that clever with word pictures. Let me share some of his.
“All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge / And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard, / Above landscapes the color of ripe gold / Transformed by a magic stopping the sun.”
That was me, drawn to God by his beauty, me on that springboard looking down on landscapes transformed. Momentarily I wasn’t sitting on an aeroplane. I, too, was floating on rolling carpets of clouds, wanting to follow the yellow brick road unfurling below me.
What a God we worship! Who provides both the practical and the profound, the anchored and the dreams. May you give yourself permission to spend more time among the clouds and the shimmering gems that take us out of ourselves to a place beyond.