At last, for people who love collecting, here’s something that won’t clog your energy or weigh you down. You can collect as many as you want and it won’t even cost you any money. It’s etherically refreshing and psychologically uplifting. And all you have to do is go outside or to a window during daylight hours and look up.
I’m talking about clouds.
Types of clouds
Clouds come in many shapes and sizes, from small and wispy to huge and majestic to black and thundery. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, who started the Cloud Appreciation Society in 2004, authored a cute pocket-sized little book called The Cloud Collector’s Handbook which contains clear descriptions and photos to enable you to spot the different types as you go about your life.
There are only ten main cloud types, which you can easily learn, and some of them enticingly combine together like German nouns. So, for example, there are stratus clouds and cumulus clouds, and when they morph together you get a stratocumulus cloud. The naming convention, first published in The International Cloud Atlas in 1896, designated the tallest clouds (cumulonimbus) as the ninth type, which gave rise to the phrase, “being on Cloud Nine”. In later editions, this type of cloud was moved to number 10 on the list, but the idiom persists to this day.
Clouds are light and fluffy, right? Apparently not.
In his other book, The Cloudspotter’s Guide, Pretor-Pinney explains that a medium sized rain cloud contains as much as ten billion water droplets per cubic meter and can weigh the same as eighty elephants!
In fact, he says, ‘Sanskrit creation myths describe how elephants created at the beginning of time were white, had wings to fly, could change their shape at will and had the power to bring rain.’ According to Hindu mythology, clouds are the spiritual cousins of elephants.
How cloud collecting can help you
Most people rarely look up and notice clouds. Our attention is more focused horizontally on what is happening around us rather than on the cloudscape above us. But clouds affect us in many ways, whether we realize it or not. A simple example is how different we feel on a grey, overcast day (stratus or stratocumulus clouds) compared to a day when there are just a few high-level wispy clouds (cirrus) in an otherwise clear blue sky. The low-level sun-blocking clouds can make people feel confined and dejected whereas a cirrus cloudscape creates a feeling of space and elation. Some of the uplifting effects of clearer skies can be attributed to the quantity and quality of sunlight, it’s true, but it’s amazing how much the different types of clouds influence this.
If you live in a place where there are clouds most of the time then it makes a lot of sense to get to know how they can affect your wellbeing, so that instead of being subject to it you can look up and say, ‘Ah, that’ll be a cumulonimbus (thundercloud) effect I’m feeling today’, and enjoy the power and drama of it rather than let it ruin your day. Not forgetting, of course, that for people living in a drought-stricken region, a cumulonimbus with its promise of rain is one of the happiest sights there is.
Looking up is good for you
Besides, looking up is good for you. Just the simple act of looking up when you feel down changes your psychological condition and raises your energy. And developing a relationship with the skies above allows your consciousness to expand to fill bigger spaces and your creativity to soar.
So even if you don’t go as far as becoming a cloud collector, a little bit of cloud spotting once or twice a day can be very inspiring. It only takes a moment and it’s free. And once you’ve had one of those ‘Wow, that’s one of those rare clouds I saw in that book’ moments, you’ll be more inclined to discover more.
Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2010, updated 2018