Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of cloud gazing. We’ve had plenty of moody skies which makes for interesting and dramatic cloud formations. I haven’t felt much like photographing them, though, strangely.

I just want to look.

The master of all cloud photographers was, I think, Alfred Stieglitz. He made his series of Equivalents as a response to a critic who believed that he had some kind of hypnotic power over his subjects, and claimed therein lay his photographic talents. Affronted, he set about to prove unequivocally that he could take good pictures of other things. Things which couldn’t be hypnotised by his lens. He turned his camera upwards and looked to the sky, to the clouds.

Alfred Stieglitz – Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz – Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz – Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz – Equivalent

Alfred Stieglitz – Equivalent

His mother was dying at the time, and these beautiful images are also a moving and emotional tribute to her. Abstract art has such power to both convey and reflect human emotion, holding up a mirror to our souls.

Was he searching for the truth? An escape from reality? Or blessed relief from the pain of losing a loved one? Was he looking for God?

We will never know exactly, but of course part of their appeal and potency is their universality. We can all find our own solace – our own answers – in them.

Clouds induce in me a lazy state of daydreaming – one of my most favourite past-times. My children enjoy that age-old past-time of spotting recognisable forms (animals, flowers, trees) in the clouds, and mostly when I think about clouds I think about childhood, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my children are so fascinated by them, or maybe because I was as a child.

And children are fascinated by clouds aren’t they? Usually I think of them as quite friendly and fluffy. Though sometimes they can be scary and menacing like the Cloud Men in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.

The other day, walking my son home from school in the rain (again) he commented on a discussion he had had with some friends at school about the rain. He said he thought that when it was raining it was God having a shower, but another friend thought that it was God’s tears. “Mummy”, he sighed, “either God is having a lot of showers lately, or he is very sad.”

I wrote these two poems about cloud-gazing from a child’s perspective (and please forgive me if they are very bad I know I am not a poet but I am trying out some new things, and perhaps they are not quite done I’m not sure yet):


Evapotranspiration. Troposphere. Stratosphere. Mesosphere. Cumuliform. Cirrocumulus.

I say the unfamiliar words out loud
Try them
Roll them around thoughtfully, clumsily in my mouth
A sugary boiled sweet clattering against my teeth

Nacreous: very high clouds. Exhibit lustrous, rainbow colours like mother of pearl
Noctilucent: night clouds. The highest clouds in the atmosphere. Illuminate during deep twilight

A new pair of too-tight leather shoes
Not easy
Not comfy

Nephology: the study of clouds

An other language
Beautiful, strange
Not mine fluently tripping off my tongue
With a skip and a hopscotch: 1… 2-3… 4… 5-6…. 7… 8-9… pick up the stone – and back again.
Can I say it backwards?
Ygolohpen (eeee-jolo-pen)
I’m stuck
Standing still
I suck
The sweet deposits itself in the hollow of my left cheek
Oozes gently filling my mouth with a burst of sickly syrupy lusciousness
I look up
Smile to myself
After a while, I turn around and hopscotch back
My once shiny shoes now scuffed and worn
Moulded to my feet
Things that once were new become part of me

Cloud kisses

I watch the clouds up in the sky
Feel the sunshine on my face
Wonder: can they see them up in space?

I watch the clouds up in the sky
White-whipped marshmallow kisses
Heaped moody-grey wishes

I watch the clouds up in the sky
I watch the thin vapours drift, I watch them roam
Restless puffs of foam

I watch the clouds up in the sky
Sheet-like fold me up a letter
Swaddle me a soft dove-grey angora sweater

I watch the clouds up in the sky
Send me surfing on a halo-hazed rim
I follow them to nowhere on a whim

I watch the clouds up in the sky
I skip a rainbow trip
Reach out to grip

Does God take his strong ancient hands
And wring each raindrop from the clouds
Until they are spent?
I watch them fall
Feel them splash upon my nose, my eyelashes
I stick out my tongue to taste
The tang of His salty-sweet tears

© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012

For reference, these are the websites I took the images from:

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