Ephemeral Treasures

Last night I listened to a ten-and-a-half minute TED talk about clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Think about that — a society whose purpose is to appreciate clouds. That’s definitely something I can relate to. I love clouds. Every day I make notes of the maximum and minimum temperatures at my place, and also the types of clouds, when there are any. (Lately they have been just about nonexistent here, with unbroken sunshine almost every day for the past three weeks). In the winter, clouds here are usually strato-cumulus or stratus. In summer we mostly see cumulus, which often form suggestive shapes, such as giant popcorn or fluffy white roast chickens. Alto-cumulus can look like flocks of sheep in formation, tinted orange or pink at sunset. Cirrus clouds are wispy and delicate, sometimes whipped into curlicues by upper atmosphere winds, making what I think of as a written sky.

I love fog, too, even while acknowledging that it makes driving difficult. (So many things make driving difficult, which suggests that maybe we should drive less). Fog simplifies the landscape, removing colour and detail. Foggy days (very rare where I live) are special, sort of like snow days without the snow. It feels as though regular life has been suspended and something tremendous is about to happen. Sadly, what happens is that the fog burns off and the ordinary resumes, which is why one must enjoy the mystery while it lasts.

Noticing and appreciating the ephemeral is an essential skill to enjoying life. Plants, birds, bugs, moss in sidewalk cracks, the way the air smells, the way things are lit up or shadowed in the course of the day — small things, tiny even, but always there to be noticed and absorbed. These details, once registered in the brain, are like a compost heap that enriches the mind. Maybe.

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