What Do You See in the Clouds?

“I came to a point where I needed solitude and just stop the machine of ‘thinking’ and ‘enjoying’ what they call ‘living’, I just wanted to lie in the grass and look at the clouds.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s quote was posted by a friend last week and while our country was acknowledging the anniversary of lock-down and social distancing, my first thought after reading it wasn’t related to the stress of the pandemic.

My response was: We all did this as kids. When and why did we stop lying in the grass to look at the clouds?

I played the game of What do you see in the clouds? with my kids when they were younger and needed to pass time on long drives, but I don’t remember purposefully going outside with a blanket just to look at clouds for a while. Or even telling them to go outside and do that, just to get them out of the house and out from under foot.

One of the most relaxing, creative afternoons I remember from my childhood was when my cousin Heather was at the house. We were maybe 8 and 10 years old? It was one of those Midwest muggy summer days when barely moving caused one to overheat and sweat. I’m not sure if Mom told us to go out and just lie on the grass for a while when we complained of the heat, or if we decided to do this on our own, but we ended up in the shade of the garage eaves on a cool, velvety patch of grass. And our imaginations took off as we watched the clouds.

They looked like fluffy mounds of ice cream, which got us thinking about what would be the coldest thing to cool us off. What if the sky was a huge swimming pool and the clouds were ice cream? What if instead of water in the pool, it was ice cold lemonade, so we’d cool off inside and out? What if paper straws were slides and the bottom of the pool was sugar? (The idea that swimming in lemonade would make us stickier than the heat we were trying to escape wasn’t something we figured in.) What if ice cream sandwiches were floats we could paddle around the pool? And speaking of floats, root beer floats made an appearance too. What if . . .

I have no idea how long we were out there that afternoon, maybe only an hour. (When you’re 8 and 10 you can afford an hour of doing nothing but staring at the sky.) I remember trying to outdo each other with how elaborate the story became and the degree of coldness we could handle. And the giggles. And that just lying in the grass looking at the clouds on a muggy July afternoon cooled us off. And all these years later I remember it all so vividly . . . even if Heather may not.

Years later I worked at Cedar Point, an amusement park on Lake Erie. One evening I sat on the beach while a storm brewed across the lake. I was mesmerized. The clouds literally rolled over themselves and I could see the darkness swallow the light as they tumbled. The storm stayed out over the lake but I felt the front pass over me while I watched the waves kick up along the same line. A friend was playing tennis and after he finished, he came by and mentioned I’d been sitting there almost two hours. I had no idea.

I also watched a storm kick up out on the Plains of Nebraska. Again there were rolling clouds but this time dust instead of waves below. Those clouds were bringing the possibility of tornadoes so Hubby and I didn’t stick around to watch.

Several years ago when our son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first child, my daughter and I hosted a baby shower. The theme was Backyard Fun, wanting to instill in these new parents that often your own backyard is the best place to explore and have fun. Here are pics of some of the decorations, encouraging them to find images in the clouds.

Obviously I’ve been fascinated by clouds for a long time, but in the last three years I’ve been more taken by them. In Alaska their patterns were beautiful and seemed so close it was almost as if I could reach up and touch them.

A year ago as businesses shut down, planes were grounded, and cars and trucks sat idle, the sky looked different – cleaner, clearer, deeper. I found myself looking up more often and being in awe of the wisps and puffs. Hubby and I would walk around the neighborhood and I’d stop and snap photos of the formations above us.

After reading the quote last week, I wondered if today’s parents play the game with their children. When they send their children outside, is it always suggested they – play ball, ride their bike, get out their skateboard . . . is there ever the suggestion to grab a blanket and watch the clouds? The stars, yes, but clouds?

After reading the quote last week, I wondered how many of us big kids ever sit outside and simply look up for a while and let our minds wander, not ‘thinking’, but maybe imagining what kind of zoo would hold bears, dogs, and horses made of clouds. C’mon, I’ll meet you outside

. . . and I’ll bring the lemonade.

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2 Responses to What Do You See in the Clouds?

  1. quinonesev1 says:

    “The clouds literally rolled over themselves and I could see the darkness swallow the light as they tumbled” Beautiful, Kim.

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