With your Head in the Clouds

cloudspotter's guidehbk

Clouds connect people to the wonders and workings of nature, whether you are in Manhattan on a beautiful spring day, or on the Great Plains as the weather suddenly shifts. But the trick is, you have to look up, you need to have a healthy degree of cloud awareness. And that is why we so admire the life’s work of Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society, and the author of The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, and his latest book, The Cloud Collector’s Handbook.

Throughout both books (and no doubt throughout his daily life) Gavin Pretor-Pinney can’t help but have fun. He describes The Cloud Appreciation Society as a global organization that fights “blue-sky thinking” wherever they find it.

Pretor-Pinney’s books are overflowing with wonderful photos and illustrations. Along the way, you’ll quickly realize that you are learning the clouds from the most entertaining teacher you’ve ever had. But there’s poetry as well. Here is the grand Manifesto of The Cloud Appreciation Society (wacky and incredibly sane at the same time):

–We believe that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

–We think that clouds are nature’s poetry, and the most egalitarian of her displays, since everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

–We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.

–We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of a person’s countenance.

–We believe that clouds are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul…

And so, we say to all who’ll listen: Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds.

Over the years it has been excruciatingly hard for the Land Library to pass by any good book on clouds. It’s as simple as that, and the reason why we have so many fun books, such as these:

hot pinkextraordinary clouds
another “visual manifesto” from Gavin Pretor-Pinney: Hot Pink Flying Saucers and Other Clouds from The Cloud Appreciation Society, and Richard Hamblyn’s Extraordinary Clouds: Skies of the Unexpected from the Beautiful to the Bizarre.

john dayeric sloane
The Book of Clouds by John A. Day, and For Spacious Skies: A Sketchbook of American Weather by Eric Sloane.

smaller invention
Richard Hamblyn’s The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies, a fascinating biography of Luke Howard, the London chemist who gave the world the three basic cloud family names: cirrus, cumulus, and stratus.

man whoshapes in the sky
and, from our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library, here’s another biography of Luke Howard, The Man Who Named the Clouds by Julie Hanna, Joan Holub, and Paige Billin-Frye, along with a terrific cloud awareness guide for kids: Shapes in the Sky: A Book About Clouds by Josepha Sherman & Omarr Wesley.

kelvin helmholtz
Kelvin-Helmholtz Cloud over Jervis Bay, Australia, photo by Giselle Golog.

The Land Library is based in Denver, Colorado. Occasionally (and once at our bus stop) we have spotted a dramatic white wave breaking across the Front Range. With those fond memories, we were especially excited to read these words from Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s The Cloud Collector’s Handbook:

Looking just like enormous waves breaking on the shore, it is rare, fleeting and the favorite of cloudspotting surfers. A well-defined Kelvin-Helmholtz is a crown jewel in many a cloud collection, for it requires the cloudspotter to be blessed with eagle-eyed sky awareness and sheer blind luck.

The Land Library loves its continued blind luck, and we hope you give yourself a treat and visit The Cloud Appreciation Society’s website for much, much more — including an amazing photo gallery. Click here for terrific photos of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds!

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2 thoughts on “With your Head in the Clouds

  1. This is so cool! I have spent too much of my life, sitting on a hill watching clouds. A lot of my Artwork reflects that. Greg

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