Featured Article: “Nature’s Best Poetry of 2019: Clouds” by Josephine Sedgwick
Every day, members of the Cloud Appreciation Society post photos of the sky from around the world. The article explores why they stop to look up.
In this lesson, you will take some time to free your mind and simply gaze up at the clouds and share your thoughts and feelings. You will also learn about the Cloud Appreciation Society and its mission, and in a Going Further activity, you will have an opportunity to photograph clouds and submit them to the society’s online gallery.
Do you ever look up at the sky and watch the clouds?
Take five minutes and simply look at the clouds in the sky.
Try to clear your mind of other thoughts …
Just look. Gaze. Wonder.
(If there are no clouds accessible at the moment — perhaps it’s a cloudless day or it is nighttime — you can watch this video of clouds)
Afterward, write about your experience or discuss it with a partner:
What did you see or notice?
What did looking at clouds make you think? Feel?
What can you learn from taking time during your busy day to stop and look at clouds? What does it make you think about nature, the world and your place in it?
(For information on the science of clouds, watch this three-minute video: “What is a cloud?”)
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. What is the purpose of the Cloud Appreciation Society? Why is the group pledged to “fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it”? What does its manifesto mean by its claim that clouds are “nature’s poetry” and “the most egalitarian of her displays”?
2. What are some of the reasons members have joined the Cloud Appreciation Society? Select one quotation by a society member expressing his or her thoughts about clouds that stands out or resonates with you most.
3. The article and photo captions list many different cloud types, such as altocumulus, lenticularis and virga. How many of these cloud types do you think you have seen? Which type do you find most intriguing or beautiful?
4. Elise Bloustein says: “Clouds really teach you about transience: They come, they go. Like thoughts, like feelings, like so many things.” Do you agree? What life lessons do you think cloud-spotting imparts?
5. Clouds are often associated with negative metaphors such as “a cloud hanging over you” and “a cloud on the horizon.” Do you think the value and beauty of clouds are overlooked? Does reading the article make you think differently about clouds — or nature in general? Do you think you will look at clouds more often?
Choose one or both of the following activities:
1) Write about a cloud photograph featured in the article.
One society member said, “It’s amazing what you can spot in the clouds, when you are looking for shapes.” Select one image from the article and describe what poetic wonders you see in it.
Do you see any shapes or objects — such as a “baby deer,” “car bumper” or “cocktail glass, complete with stirrer”? Be as descriptive as possible: Is the cloud large and bubbly? Or light and wispy? Is it flat and shallow? Or is it thick and dense? Be poetic and creative too: Don’t shy away from evocative metaphors or similes.
What do the clouds make you think or feel? Why does this image stand out to you?
2) Photograph the poetry of clouds.
Take a series of photos that capture the beauty, mystery or poetry of clouds. Consider the best camera orientation (landscape or portrait) and framing (should you include just the clouds or the setting as well?), and, of course, whether to include a single cloud or many in your photograph.
If you are inspired, consider submitting one of your photos to the Cloud Appreciation Society here.