It’s summer. Time to lounge around doing nothing more than gazing at clouds. It’s a relaxing, amusing, and completely free pastime.
The traditional spot to indulge in this pleasurable activity is sitting in the grass. Better yet, lying on the grass. Stay there as clouds drift into view over treetops and roofs, slowly changing form. Your kids may swear they can feel the planet moving.
Looking at clouds is a perfect way to disengage from all the buzzing, ringing distractions that claw our attention to shreds. Those puffs of air vapor seem to invite contemplation. And that’s good. Daydreaming is so rejuvenating that it can boost creativity. It also helps us to relax, review emotion-laden situations calmly, generate new ideas, and get to know ourselves better.
When we let our minds wander, we’re in what neuroscience calls the “default mode network.” An L.A. Times article titled, “An Idle Brain May Be The Self’s Workshop” notes,
“Just as sleep appears to play an important role in learning, memory consolidation and maintaining the body’s metabolic function, some scientists wonder whether unstructured mental time — time to zone out and daydream — might also play a key role in our mental well-being. If so, that’s a cautionary tale for a society that prizes productivity and takes a dim view of mind-wandering.”
That’s a great excuse to flop down on the grass for some cloud gazing. You may see a cloud pig sailing a cloud boat. The sailboat may morph into French fries before the whole thing breaks apart into a shape resembling a bongo-playing octopus. Good thing the images we see in clouds aren’t a meterological Rorschach test.
To ramp up your family’s enthusiasm, look into these resources.
Check out the Cloud Appreciation Society. You can post photos to the online gallery, chat about all things cloudy on the forum, and live by their manifesto which includes a pledge to fight “blue-sky thinking.”
Consider becoming cloud collectors. Bird watchers keep a life list of their sightings, now cloud watchers can do the same with The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Packed with beautiful photos, this is a perfect book for adults and kids to share as they “collect” different cloud types.
You might want to keep a handbook near a window or in your car, ready to help your family with identifications. Two of the best are The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds also by Gavin Pretor-Pinney and The Book of Clouds by John A. Day, who was known through his long career as Cloudman. Check out resources on Cloudman’s site including instructions for making a cloud discovery notebook, tips for photographing clouds, and cloud history.
And of course, check out the information available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.