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Environment Science

A cloud is described as “reading the earth with its blind shadow” by Helen Sullivan.


The presence of clouds greatly influences the atmosphere of the day and our perception of it. Clouds, unlike other weather elements such as snow, cold, rain, sun, and wind, have a unique way of communicating with our inner selves through the sensation on our skin. It’s almost as if there is a constant creation and transformation of vapor within us, in our chest or perhaps even our mind. This is why humans require water to nourish their inner cloud formations.

A fluffy mass beneath the bright sky above your somber emotions. Thoughts of thunder and lightning, while the rest of you is drenched. A faint, pale sensation in your stomach – a mix of joy and anxiety.

Upon waking, we engage in cloud divination, observing the sky in search of any confirmation that there is a connection between the state of the world and our perception of it.

On occasion, we venture outside and, if we are content and have the luxury of time, we recline on the grass and gaze at the sky, noticing formations such as continents, animals, and faces. When prompted, we may acknowledge that these shapes are not tangible. However, there is a part of us – the clouds within us – that believes that something above has seen Africa, a whale, or a grinning man in a hat and desires to discuss it.

Billy Collins reflects on the concept of emotion, noting that it can be found in the ever-changing forms of clouds rather than in the static green hills or rivers. He observes a cloud moving across the sky, comparing its movement to the way our eyes scan over words on a page, as if the cloud is reading the land through its dark silhouette.

The Virgin with Child on clouds with angels – a coloured lithograph by N Thomas

At dusk, Joni Mitchell gazes upwards and observes “feather canyons”. However, during mid-morning, she encounters an obstacle in her view – the term “cloud” originates from “clud” or “clod”, and she perceives it as a hill or “mass of stone” obstructing the sunlight.

Joanna Newsom gazes at the distant view and realizes she lacks power “to govern / My emotions, my thoughts / As the landscape is engulfed by storm clouds”. Kate Bush awakens abruptly in her bed; she has had a dream about Peter Reich, son of Wilhelm Reich, observing his father at their residence, Orgonon. Wilhelm is now awake and excitedly heads outdoors to assemble his cloudbuster, convinced that he can control the weather.

Whenever it rains, you’re on my mind, much like the sun shining through the clouds. I have a feeling that something positive is going to occur.

When air cools and reaches its dew point, it becomes saturated with water and forms clouds. The dew point is the temperature at which this occurs. I believe I also have a dew point, and I think it is happening at this moment.

  • Helen Sullivan, a journalist for The Guardian, will release her debut memoir titled Freak of Nature in 2024.

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Source: theguardian.com