it is best practiced on your back. a blanket comes in handy. you can do it in a chair, or standing like a soldier. only then your neck gets sore.
it is eyes locked on heaven. it is watching celestial shadow games, the sun and clouds the players.
it is what happens, unless you live in a house of skylight after skylight, when cold and snow is ended and you finally step outside. into God’s cathedral.
louis kahn, the architect i love because i love his thoughts though not his buildings, talks about the treasury of the shadows. he writes: “light, the giver of presence, casts its shadow which belongs to light. what is made belongs to light and to desire…”
he writes later: “the structure is a design in light. the vault, the dome, the arch, the column, are structures related to the character of light. natural light gives mood to space by nuances of light in the time of the day and the seasons of the year as it enters and modifies the space.”
and so it is with clouds. clouds, i think, are heaven’s vault and dome and arch and column.
i watched the sunbeams play with clouds the other afternoon. i watched the light play peek-a-boo. first, absence of shadow, all light the same, as sun was captive to the clouds. then, as cloud skittered north and east, the rim shone piercing white, a ruffled edge illuminated from blinding light behind the vapored curtain. then, pop, sunbeam re-emerged and shadows danced again.
on and on it went. i was lost in clouds for the better part of an hour. my boys romped. one with camera, the one who caught the clouds above for me. the other one with sand and hands. each one of us lost in time. each one of us transfixed by light and shadow, sand and lake.
it’s what happens when you surrender to the calling of the blanket. the blanket that made you turn the car, and park, and haul it to the sands.
i am, as always, and as so many, many before me, very much a ready student in the great school of God’s world as it surrounds me. i am, me and my home-bound suburban life, hellbent on breaking out, breaking open the fragile and the monumental offered up by nature. be it clouds and light and shadow, or tender shoots refusing to be barred by crust of earth, i am seeping up the lessons, taking in the truths. there is metaphor all over. it’s deep and it’s profound.
and sometimes, when the clouds and sunbeams do their dance, it’s simply pure delight. it made me draw my breath, gulp the sky. it made me call the boys. “come watch this,” i shouted. “here, lie down.”
so the three of us, three logs in a row, we lay there on the blanket, we played a guessing game. when was sunbeam breaking through? when was shadow coming back?
the little one played his own game. he was playing circus in the sky. he saw a fire-breathing dragon. and then an elephant with trunk that poked the dragon in the bottom.
i particularly loved watching the parade of clouds through the filigree of branches bearing buds. it made the sky seem even more immense, made the clouds more beyond my touch. it made me feel so little.
i think, sometimes, that feeling small, in the face of God’s creation, is an extraordinary blessing.
i only wish i took the time to put my spine to earth, my eyes to sunbeam dance, every single day.
anyone else catch the clouds the other afternoon? anyone make a daily practice of gulping sky as celestial exercise?
photo credit: sweet will, once again. lesson learned: don’t leave home without your lens.
I did not take notice of the clouds the other afternoon, but your daily meandering made me think of other moments of celestial grace.As mentioned before, I grew up in northern minnesota. One of my favorite childhood memories is of my dad waking me up at night, carrying me outside and showing me these dancing colorful lights in the night sky, that I would later come to know as northern lights or aurora borealis. I never knew when or why these lights would appear, but for a little pig-tailed toe head, it was simply magical that my dad would wake me from a deep slumber and bring me out to this natural drama occurring before my very eyes. As I have thought about the northern lights and my dad’s invitation to dance with their wonder, I have come to define the word “grace” by this experience. Annie Dillard writes in her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, “beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” She goes on to say in her chapter, entitled “seeing,” that a once-blind young girl described as the “tree with lights in it” when she recovered her sight. When Annie Dillard first saw the tree this girl had described, she writes, “It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance… I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” Grace to me, is being awoken from a literal or figurative slumber and being invited to look out and look up to see pure beauty illuminating any sense of darkness. My dad’s late night invitations weren’t all that often, as the northern lights are present in minnesota only now and then, but they were invitations to experience deep grace and wonder.Now that I live in Hyde Park, it’s not that safe for me to walk out to the lakefront and look at the nightime sky. I have felt blessed to drive along lake shore drive and see the full moon over lake michigan. I have given thanks for each sunrise I have seen in this fine city as I run along the lakefront, but the little girl in me wants to crawl out of bed some night and be absolutely free and able to look up at the nighttime sky in this city and not have to worry about my surroundings. Till that time comes, I cherish the times I return to the northwoods and feel safe again and I will turn to they day-time sky to marvel at the celestial wonders. Has anyone else seen the wonders of the northern lights?
anyone who carries annie dillard to the table is so amply offered room to pull that chair in snug. ahhhh, thank you for bringing her definition of grace, your papa’s gift of carrying sleepy-eyed child to the dome of lighted sky. many gifts come to this table. in telling story, we all take a taste. it’s like passing a spoon around the table. one bowl spilling with apple pan dowdy. we all get a bite. we all savor. we all carry its sweetness through the day. isn’t it odd how the sanctuary of a night sky and the lights that shine on high (not street lights down below), can be a distant ungraspable treasure because we lurk in the not-always-safe city? i know that as desperately as i never wanted to leave the city limits, when we finally moved north, i looked up in the night sky and found some solace in the dots of newfound light that had been eclipsed by glare of glowing streetlamps. you remind me not to take the sky for granted. certainly not the night sky. some night, perhaps, we’ll all pull up chairs under a sky of northern lights….
The mystery of clouds reminded me of Joni Mitchell singing “I really don’t know clouds at all.” Who can? You mentioned “heaven’s columns”, which made me think of the awe-inspiring Arizona monsoon cumulo-nimbus clouds.Whoa! They tower 50,000 feet up in the theater of the heavens.Everybody loves blue skies. But too many blue sky days, and it’s the recipe for a desert. Send in the clouds. 🙂
Oh, I miss those too-many-blue-sky days! One can stare vacantly into that empty breakable-blue sky too, marveling at the clarity of the color and the intensity of the light. I am a displaced desert dweller at root, and though I love this midwest with its seasons and its subtlety, to my mind nothing anywhere else can compare with the stark beauty of a desert sky, with its savage sunset colors and its rare thunderheads, its trillion nighttime stars. I love today’s post and especially the photo! I took our car blanket out recently but now it’s the season to make sure it’s back in the trunk. Time to go stare up at the sky and gulp, as you so aptly put it, the grace. Wherever I am!
I LOVE THE CLOUDS……..marshmallow animals, spaceships, teddy bears, big inviting, fluffy pillows to dream on, and sometimes dark, a little threatening, but always awe inspiring………it is such a blessing to listen to a child’s imagination take those cloud shapes and not only name them but spin tales from their images…….what starts out as ‘just a dragon’ turns into a story about his cave, his ‘gory’ dinner, and the princess he has rescued from an evil captor………..wonderful……… Thelonious is right, too many ‘blue sky days’ with no clouds in sight and it is a recipe for a desert, that’s why the clouds in the sky, as well as the ones that sometimes come into our lives, are so appreciated…. they remind us of God’s awesome creation, they water our fields and our spirits, and invite us, require us, to look upward…………Thank You God for the Blessing of Clouds………