Put Your Head in the Clouds


Nature always delivers. Our first home offers sanctuary from all that comes with 2017—freely dishing out peace, humility, awe, and perspective. How often do you notice clouds? Do you linger in their world? Getting lost in those fleeting white puffs always brings me to my senses. Looking up with wonder invigorates for the inevitable return to land. My cousin Maria and I shared my all-time favorite cloud in 2011, as we leaned over the railing of a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My dog Mel had died a few weeks earlier and I missed him madly. As a storm passed us by, Mel’s face appeared framed by blue sky—a perfect profile likeness. What joy! Maria explained the kind of cloud and why it blew past us just then, but I preferred my own understanding of this particular cloud. Mel sent me a message.

For many years I’ve looked skyward with Maria, listening as she shares the magic of clouds. Her new book, A Sideways Look at Clouds, is an irresistible invitation into cloud land. Now you can walk with my cousin—your neck flexing, shoulders back, and eyes searching upward. Her book guides you through the sky, an opportunity to rediscover floating beauty every day. “Fog is the only cloud you can swim in, though no one mentions this fact or recommends this simple, rare pleasure,” she writes, changing dawn outings forever. Swim in the clouds before your morning cup of joe! Maria the fog guru beckons: “Around the autumn equinox, fog has a special magic. Every morning is noticeably darker, every night a little cooler. There is nothing the earth can do about it. Resigned, it simply lets go and releases its summer into the autumn air. But not all at once, instead slowly, over weeks, in a series of long exhalations. On still, cool nights I sense that our tired, end-of-summer earth is sighing. In the morning there is the beautiful blanket of fog it has exhaled.” Come September I’ll be awake to another piece of the slow merger of summer and autumn.

Maria plays clouds my way, too, laughing as I name clouds after their animal likenesses—the terrier, buffalo, turtle mirror images of the one’s below. But I agree with her: “Fluency in cloud names is less about showing off than showing attention, even love, for these natural wonders. Through language, strange and nameless clouds can be recognized, discussed, and understood. Through language, once-distant relationships to clouds can become familiar, intimate, enduring.”

Any connection with the natural world that we can restore and foster enhances our sense of belonging. Cloud country is easy to underlook—but clouds are our relatives, too.

I’m delighted for Maria and her readers that she’s going public with her cloudy love affair. A Sideways Look at Clouds, releasing on September 18, is published by Mountaineers Books and available for pre-order also on Amazon.


One last invitation from her book and her heart: “These clouds were falling apart before my eyes. They were beautiful in their un-becoming.”