Monday, September 15, 2014

"I've looked at clouds…"

"I've looked at clouds
from both sides now,
from give and take..."

- Joni Mitchell

I live along a river valley that runs between two mountain ranges. Each morning I rise, fill the bird feeders, water the flowers and return to the kitchen where I make a pot of tea. Then I spend a few hours studying spiritual texts, taking calls, and staring.  Yes, staring.

I've always been fascinated by clouds. As a child I couldn't wait to finish my chores and retreat to read. If the weather was inclement, I would go to my room, climb into my bottom bunk and disappear into a story about horses, a Nancy Drew mystery, a biography about strong women, or a book of fantasy. If the weather allowed, I would grab a book and head for a grassy place to lie on my back and alternate between reading words and reading clouds.

I loved watching a cloud change shapes -- from a bunny, to a dragon, to a castle -- and so on. The first time I heard Joni Mitchell's,"Both Sides Now," I thought it was the most brilliant song ever penned.

These days, I don't have to lie in the grass to watch clouds. All I have to do is look out our floor to ceiling windows, where I have a stretch of sky that reaches about 50 miles along the valley -- from north to south. I can watch a single cloud shift shape dozens of time. I can watch her start out as a puffy little thing, and over the course of a few hours, turn into a pouty, storm-sodden promise full of rain.

One day, as I watched a cloud morph, over, and over again, I realized that "the cloud" I'd been watching -- and which I'd identified as "that cloud," -- was not the same cloud, at all. Fifth grade earth science had taught me that throughout the morning, the sun had caused water molecules to evaporate up from puddles, lakes, rivers, streams, and back into the atmosphere. From there, they'd then been gathered (or condensed) into clouds. But all the while, as each cloud gathered new molecules of water, other water molecules were being released back into the atmosphere. There was a constant, ongoing exchange of water molecules.

The cloud that I had been watching move from the north earlier that morning, was actually not the same cloud I saw later in the afternoon. Even though I thought I'd been monitoring its southbound progress -- and its ever-changing shape -- there were probably very few water molecules left of what had started out as "that cloud" earlier in the morning.

And for that matter, what constituted "that cloud" anyway?  How was it so different from the atmosphere it seemed to be traveling through. The same molecules that made up that beautiful blue sky, made up the cloud. All that was different, was density. What I thought of as an outlined shape, was actually, in a constant state of transformation -- continuously changing and shifting.

For me, this realization felt -- in ways that are hard to explain -- like I finally understood Life. I could see that the atmosphere which seemed so invisible, became more visible when gathered into a denser form -- not a different substance -- just a different density. The essential elements that made up the atmosphere -- and the cloud -- were interchangeable, and changeless.

I had to ask myself, "how is this different from what I think of as my body -- a body in which each cell is replaced every seven years?" Could this be what Mary Baker Eddy is referring to in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, when she says:

"Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts
into their proper channels
and unfolds these thoughts…
in order that their purpose may appear"
and that:

"Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts
and replace the objects of material sense
with spiritual ideas."

Gathering and resolving, gathering and resolving...

As Joni sings:

"something's lost,
and something's gained,
in living every day..."

I couldn't help but think of God as the atmosphere -- invisible, but ever-present. And everything we experience -- bodies, trees, houses -- as clouds. Constantly gathering into forms that allow the atmosphere to express a new sense of purpose -- to provide shade, to move moisture from north to south -- or east to west, to sort sunlight into a rainbow of hues, to resolve into much-needed rain -- in short, to bless.

I could actually feel the give and take of being spiritual -- and yet, having form -- without the membrane of duality. To be as at-one with God, as the cloud is one with the atmosphere it travels through, and exists in.

There is so much more I am learning from clouds. But for tonight -- this begged sharing.

offered with Love,


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