Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dorothy had the right idea!

I made a trip out to Greenville yesterday to meet up with my son for the day, an unexpected pleasure since I hadn't planned on seeing him till the holidays. Besides being startled while driving when a bald eagle landed on the guardrail and drawn to the sight of red headed vultures eating leftovers on the side of the road, I watched the sky. I couldn't help but notice it, bounding with large, luscious, billows of white with lavender  underbellies. Made me think back to childhood and those lost days when I would go outdoors, lay on the sweet, scented grass and spend hours looking upwards to watch camels, cats and dragons float overhead. And perhaps like me, you too would keep a watchful eye on those shape-shifting clouds, waiting for an angel to peek over the edge.

From May of 2010 through April 2011, I painted and sketched the skies over the Outer Banks, documenting a year's worth of overhead observations from my own backyard. I kept my easel set up on the deck and my paints on a chair by the front door so I could rush out at a moment's notice to capture an elusive occurrence when wind and moisture formed something exquisite. Like snowflakes, each cloud is different, never to exactly repeat itself. I was fortunate to be invited to put on an exhibit of my studies at the North Carolina Aquarium, a show I was incredibly proud of. Even though my year of documenting skies has ended, I find I just can't stop. I still race outside to sketch and paint a few minutes of frozen time in the sky. I'm as addicted to skywatching as I am to Jelly Belly candies, one much better for me than the other!

Each morning, even before I feed my loudmouthed felines, I step outside and scan the sky. Closing my eyes, I feel which direction the wind is blowing, and I take a deep breath to smell the clean, pure air. I do this whether it's raining, cold, windy or sun-shiny. Those first few moments of the morning, when I'm using all my senses, set the tone for my day just as the wind creates movement, shifting the clouds, affecting the whole landscape. Even Buddha and Erb sit by the screen door, noses lifted, whiskers twitching and eyes half-closed, savoring more smells on the currents of air than I can imagine.

Like an adolescent, spring brings drama to the sky, but by late summer, the clouds begin to soften, and Vs of ducks streak by, geese honk overhead, sun dogs appear over Jockey's Ridge, stars "fall" at night and the moon sometimes kicks out incredible rays. I want to paint it all! I moved my picnic table to the end of the deck allowing me a wide open view to the southeast, south and west so I can set up there day or night and do my thing. And of course I am a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society. That's right, there really is an organization that celebrates clouds. Check it out:

Here's some books from my library that fellow cloud lovers might enjoy:

The Cloudspotters Guide, by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society

The Cloud Book, How to understand the skies., by Richard Hamblyn

The Book of Clouds, by John A. Day

"The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy."              - Uvavnuk

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