Serious Cirrus and the Cloud Appreciation Society

Last week before the heatwave hit, I ventured out on the bike to clear out the cobwebs and was stunned by the artistic activity on display in the sky. Someone, something, had taken out the giant paint brushes and dabbled in dry-brush technique. Here and there: wide playful swaths of white hanging in isolation against a blue museum wall. No nasty uniformed guards. No red velveteen cords. No signs saying “Don’t touch.” Because this stuff was far out of any school girl’s curious reach.


The school girl in question tried to reproduce the effect when she got home, but it’s not so easy. Beauty is beautiful because not just anyone can whip it out. Even (and especially) when the author of the original masterpiece is none other than Nature herself, with wind and water as her tools. Lesson learned.

The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, which I keep on a shelf under the best cloud-viewing window in the house, tells us on page 22:

The most ethereal looking of all the main types, Cirrus clouds are also the highest—composed entirely of ice crystals. These typically fall through the high winds of the upper troposphere to appear as delicate, celestial brush strokes, known as “fallstreaks.” Cirrus often look like white locks of hair (from which the Latin name is derived).


If you love clouds as much as I do, you’ll love the aforementioned book and the associated website, Cloud Appreciation Society. Before I leave for the day, I share the Cloud Collector’s manifesto with you, borrowed from their site and with which I heartily agree:

WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned
and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

We think that they are Nature’s poetry,
and the most egalitarian of her displays, since
everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it.
Life would be dull if we had to look up at
cloudless monotony day after day.

We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the
atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of
a person’s countenance.

Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.
Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.

And so we say to all who’ll listen:
Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds!

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4 Responses to Serious Cirrus and the Cloud Appreciation Society

  1. anntmoore says:

    This is suddenly reminding me of my own contemplation of the clouds when I was a very little girl, not more than five years old, growing up on a poultry farm just outside of Richmond, Virginia. Those recollections are very vivid, and very precious. Thanks for bringing them back! –Mom

  2. You actually gave me the book I talk about in the post…so I owe it to you. I LOVE that book.

  3. Mary says:

    Ahhh, Charlotte, you, too? I always have my desk facing a window so that I can admire the clouds throughout the day and the camera on my phone has a ridiculous number of cloud shots. One of my favorite birthday gifts ever was a copy of The Cloudspotter’s Guide and one of my retirement goals is to take a course on Nephology.

  4. ron says:

    LOVE clouds. they’re infinitely creative and adventurous, withholding any kind of judgement about “coolness” or “drama” or self-consciousness about “looking good enough” to go out…..yeah, i love clouds. i could look at them all dang day. sigh……..

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