When I first saw a copy of The Cloud Collector’s Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney on the bookshelf in the visitor center in Big Bend National Park (Texas) a few months ago, I had a number of reactions:
- Who collects clouds?
- How do you even collect a cloud?
- Why would someone collect clouds?
- Aren’t there only 4 or 5 kinds of clouds? (Apologies to my 8th-grade science teacher…yes, I forgot the rest!)
- This sounds like a snap! Seems less complicated than stamp collecting, not as back-breaking as collecting shark’s teeth, and a great way to enjoy the outdoors and do nothing at the same time.
I bought the book; I still like the feel of an actual book in my hands. It was a small book, size-wise; I could carry it in a purse or laptop case. And I loved the variegated orange-colored cover on the book with lots of bright pictures inside. (Did I ever mention my background as a kindergarten teacher? It seems appropriate to mention it now, I guess.)
Surprised is a mild description for how I felt once I started glancing through the pages of my new purchase. Interested – yes. Enthralled – yes. Imagination running wildly through the clouds – (groan) yes. Anxiously engaging photo-mode in my mind – yes.
Did you ever lay in the grass as a child and imagine the clouds you saw were actual images in the sky? As children, many of us glanced skyward and thought briefly we saw a bunny or Mickey Mouse or an elephant. A witch’s nose or a lion’s pose were favorites of mine. And I’ve recently added a star to my favorites!
Cloud collecting takes the childhood fascination with imagination and couples it with actual names of the phenomenon we see in the clouds passing by. Names like Sun Pillars, Tuba and Mamma are a few of the easier ones to say. A dictionary would come in handy to correctly pronounce Lenticularis and Castellanus.
To say I was hooked would be an understatement. I loved this new passion of mine. I spent countless moments leaning out of the window of our truck, snapping pictures of clouds as we pulled our 5th-wheel to California and back. My husband joined in the search for unusual vistas as he drove – so much so that at times all we said for miles was “Hey, look at that one,” “Oh, you missed one”, “Wow”, and “Slow down so I can take a picture”.
Gazing at the clouds is like looking into the future – if you don’t like what you see, don’t worry. It can change right before your very eyes…every time the wind blows!
For now, look up. Imagine. Relax. Enjoy a few pics from my own cloud collection!