Clouds come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some look light and fluffy, others appear menacing and apocalyptic. As someone who likes to paint seascapes, it took me quite a while to work out how to reproduce them on a canvass, and one thing I’ve picked up along the way is that while they are all made of the same stuff they are not all created equal. Like us, they are full of light and dark and many shades of grey. They too have their shadow sides. They have soft edges and hard edges. Some suggest hot summer days while others with their low and threatening contours indicate an approaching storm. Clouds that is. Others are so erratic and capricious that the human mind starts to see things.
The nature of clouds inspired this famous Peanuts cartoon by Charles M Schulz:
“Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton… I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by… If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations… What do you think you see, Linus?“
“Well, those clouds up there look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean… That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor… And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen… I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side…”
“Uh huh… That’s very good… What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”
“Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind!”
A few days ago a different kind of cloud appeared over Victoria, one we have seen before and now we are in lockdown for a 2nd time. Whilst not inevitable it was always possible that we would be in this situation again. Just when things were looking better and hope was taking shape on the near horizon, a darker cloud appeared and we have entered a new phase of lockdowns. But, this too, shall pass. And lighter brighter clouds will once again take shape on the horizon.
Meanwhile, we continue to stay connected as best we can, digging deeply into our reserves of patience, good will and good humour. I suspect we may have exhausted all those possibilities for distraction because that is how we often cope with difficult situations, but perhaps this second phase might give birth to a second wave of deeper thinking. Using this time of isolation to think about and maybe write about wisdom; what have I learned about myself during this time? What has this lockdown taught me about my strengths and weaknesses – when am I strongest and when am I vulnerable? What sustains me? What have I discovered about what is most important to me; what do I value most about my life and living.
These are just a few questions that might generate access to wisdom. May I encourage each of us to make some time to watch the clouds and think about life. I fully appreciate that this is going to be easier for some than for others, because our circumstances vary enormously, but unless we try to extract some wisdom from this ‘global moment’ then it will have been an opportunity lost.
Meanwhile, enjoy the beauty of clouds, if for no other reason than they are simply beautiful.