On Cloud 9
Clouds get a bad rap. They’re the mascot for living with depression (“oh, he’s just under a cloud”), the harbinger of bad news (“there’s a cloud on the horizon”) and a simple, unwanted sign of bad weather.
Clouds need a makeover, and Gavin Pretor-Pinney is just the man to do it. Founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society (an organization that fights “blue-sky thinking”), Pinney is bringing sexy back…to the stratocumulus.
‘Member when we were kids, lying in the grass staring at the sky and pointing out clouds that looked like bunny rabbits and angry librarians? Or how we grew up imagining that angels were perched in the clouds above us? Clouds have even been popularly mistaken for UFOs. There is no denying that something magical about those big cotton balls in the sky – each one like a Rorschach reflection of our own minds.
Pinney has written a lovely pocket guide, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, as a “whimsical guide to the wonders of the sky” for amateur and seasoned cloud connoisseurs alike. My mom taught me the constellations on our front stoop when I was little, and so I like to think of grown-ups learning to look UP again by collecting clouds with their kids, too!
A Wall Street Journal review of the book wrote this fun little passage about the storied history of cloud culture, “As storms gathered, the Greeks discerned the aura of Zeus, wielding kingly power through his thunder. In ancient texts, the Chinese described a celestial hierarchy— Comptroller-General of Clouds, Under-Secretary of the Department of Lightning—that resembled their imperial bureaucracy, down to its detailed organizational chart. Certain Native Americans recognized in clouds the spirits of their ancestors, benevolent yet tactfully stationed far above, capable of showering their blessing in the form of rain. Part of the fascination of the sky is its ever-present invitation to escape the all-too-human into another, better (or at least different) world.”
Here are some other stunning photos of clouds from around the interwebs (the last photo is of the very rare Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud):