The only way I can see far is to look up. Buildings on all sides block everything. From my deck, I lounge in a chair and just look up. Those beautiful clouds, a passing parade of white, light grays, and dark grays. Right now the sun is directly above. It appears as a perfect orange-red circle blocked by a cloud. Today is partly cloudy so I have to be careful not to look directly at the sun. It’s a game I play with the clouds.

The patio is my sky theater and my clouds are the thespians. From this orchestra seat I am front row for a spectacular performance. Four clouds are closing in on blue sky for all four directions. It looks like the iris of my eye adjusting to bright light. The clouds are great white barges closing a hole in the sky.

The hole is my portal to everything  above me right here from the deck. The neighbor’s fence doesn’t matter. I look up.  I get to see things no one else sees. Far above, circling the almost closed hole in the sky, three birds are soaring. They climb higher and higher until they disappear. I pretend I am one of them riding a thermal of warm air that arises from my neighborhood.

I am seeing the atmosphere because of clouds. Some are as big as the town I live in – Babylon. Clouds tell me location of the sun. At times, a lower cloud will pass under a higher one and never touch. The more I look, the more the fascination. I like to watch the top of cumulus clouds. They grow and look like popcorn.

Stratus clouds cover the entire sky. There is no sunshine, no peek-a=boo, no ups and downs of exhilaration and disappointment. Clouds change our mood.

The weather map in the New York Times has a symbol for clouds. It looks like a pillow with scalloped edges. Sometimes this symbol covers half of the United States.

The sky is like an ocean. It is vast. Only turn your chin up and you’re there. Everyone on the planet shares cloud experiences. Montana is called BIG SKY country. With no trees, one can have a 360 degree panoramic view. The same is true for deserts, prairies, or out in the ocean.

Clouds insulate the earth. Dew condenses on surfaces at night when the sky is cloudless. Earth’s heat escapes and is reflected back. Clouds form when warm moist air comes in contact with cold, dry air. When warm moist air rises, it cools as it ascends and will condense into mist droplets at a point called the dew point. Cumulus clouds have flat bottoms because the air temperature is the same for a large area. When cool air moves into warm moist air, condensation occurs on a slant and created a large flat layer called stratus.

Once I saw two young women looking at their hand held I pads. “Aren’t those clouds beautiful? Look up!” they looked at me briefly, and then returned to their screens. Here is a case in which I tried to lead the horses to water, and they refused to drink. I thought to myself…”Good, I have the clouds all to myself.”

Tom Stock

Tom Stock has been involved in the Long Island environmental and outdoor education community for decades.

He has published two books; THE NISSEQUOGUE RIVER: A JOURNEY and HIDDEN AGENDA; A POETRY JOURNEY.He has also published many essays and poems in such journals as the Long Island Forum and The Long Islander.

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