Do you ever look up? Not just a glance to decide about the umbrella, but a real look. What do you see? A treeline? Power lines, rooftops, birds, sun, sky? What about clouds -- will they bring rain or fine weather and do you even care?
The natural world and its many moods have always been of concern to humans. Throughout the world there were and remain rituals and practices that attempt to control the rain, sun and wind. Regular account was made of the solar cycle, including the observation of events such as the summer solstice in mid-June. People and objects that were considered to have influence over the weather were held in high esteem -- as the weather itself held the key to feast or famine.
Years ago, a farmer in northern Europe might have cast a practiced eye across the landscape to note the development of "squall of softness" and then prepare for poor weather. The puffy white cumulus clouds that tiptoe across the sky in spring provided the portent of fair weather for planting. Intuition and experience were the means by which the natural world was translated to those who lived close to the land.
Today, we know that the summer solstice will occur on June 21 at precisely 5:27 AM PDT (12:27 UT). If you're keen on the weather, you can consult a television radar map or weather broadcast. There are even weather radios that provide forecasts and statistics 24 hours a day. Satellites and technology have taken the place of the practiced eye and the consideration of the daily weather is, at most, the unremembered side note to another busy day. In our modern world - what of the intuition no longer needed? What can a cloudy sky mean to those who no longer live by the rain?
I do not yearn for a return to simpler "days of old." Life was harsh and to view those days sentimentally is a disservice to those who toiled endlessly to feed and protect their families and themselves. By living on the land, earlier people lived close to the abundance provided and the death meted out by their environment. Nature was reflected in their very existence. In Ireland, June, July and August were known as the "hungry" months as food was scarce before the crops came in.
Our lives are more complex, we generally do not live off the land. The landscape provides a pretty view, the scenery is part of a real estate package. Though a sunset may be beautiful we do not regularly take it to heart. But because our lives are not directly dependent on the rainfall, perhaps we have lost a gift that belongs to those whose lives are. "As without, so within" -- the nature that we do not know outside of ourselves is reflected in the nature that we do not know within ourselves.
So what of those clouds? What, besides releasing life-giving rain, can they do for you? Did you ever feel a grey sky echoed how you felt about life? That the sky cried when you did? That there just might be a fresh start for you on the horizon? Like time, the clouds in the sky are continually changing. There are very high, wispy clouds that curl into graceful patterns that seem to exist to dance. Middle clouds can signal a coming instability, things are not always what they seem. And low clouds can be both fair and entertaining or disguise and distort your landscape completely with vaporous fog. Life is like that.
In our daily lives and in the news, we regularly witness disregard for human nature. "As within, so without" -- the nature that we abuse within ourselves is reflected in the nature we abuse outside of ourselves. Studies suggest that pollution-driven global warming is causing ocean temperatures to rise, creating more intense tropical storms and hurricanes.
It is a long way from ancient rainmaking rituals to Irish farmers to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. But the water that made up the clouds that filled the skies when dinosaurs were eating plants on the ground that became your front yard is the same water that is making up the clouds floating directly above your head at this moment. Nature, within and without is connected, across both time and space. To look beyond the hard grip of reality and see that connection is a gift and a responsibility that belongs to everyone.
Today I looked up and saw cumulus and stratus clouds -- a mixed sky. The sky seems as undecided as I feel. Life is like that. Fair but indecisive weather on the way, sweeping me and the seasons with it, like so many clouds across the sky.