Photo by Kriezyl Paguntalan
Introspections & Retrospections

In Awe of Clouds

I rarely enjoy walking in the daylight, but there are amazing sights you don’t usually see and appreciate in the evening— especially at 5pm on a cloudy day. We all probably had a moment in our lives when we’d just stare at the clouds and admire how beautiful or gloomy they seem. Today, I was simply ensnared.

It was quite an ordinary scene, actually. The clouds on the horizon were stained with light tangerine to soft rose, shaded by patches of gray or blighted with glaring white. It was a majestic mixture of both colors and emotions, but what really stopped me and caused my heart to quicken were the towering cumulus clouds that seemed to overrun and dominate the skies.

Have you ever wondered, imagined, how pitiful and insignificant we seem compared to the clouds? Think about it— float to the sky and hover before the titanic column of cumulus clouds, fluffy yet foreboding. Picture yourself there, a near-imperceptible dot against the mighty volume of cotton-like vapor. Better yet, realize how an airplane compares as it pierces through those clouds, and how tiny you are inside such a contraption.

Behold, the ageless awe of the mysterious clouds.

Perhaps you don’t appreciate the drama, so let’s talk science. Or at least, the empirical. According to some sources, the troposphere or the cloud layer is approximately measured from 6,500 ft up to 60,000 ft. Not impressed? Okay, try this for size: Mt Everest is around 29,029 ft.

No wonder ancient civilizations often relate clouds with the divine.

Yet of all the citizens of the sky, nothing inspires both gentleness and terror as the clouds. The stars are inspiring, the sun is powerful, the moon sweet and dreamy; but the clouds have always been ambivalent as harbingers of dreadful storms or springtime rains; of summer shade or winter’s woes. For the more imaginative, it brings signs or omens— from angry deities or invading aliens, to hidden floating islands or forbidden magical kingdoms.

And in all these, I can’t help but feel despair. Despair at my own shallowness and insignificance against such almost immeasurable force— for what can man truly offer to defend itself when the clouds choose to fully bring its wrath through whirlwind, lightning and hurricane? Has science ever succeeded to tame the clouds? As such, we are at the mercy of these sovereigns of the sky, lovingly fluffy as they may be.

Yet for all its terrifying worth, nothing lasts as momentarily as clouds. From gigantic cumulus clouds that reach far atop the atmosphere; to enormous cyclone clouds that encompass islands, nations, continents; to the feathery cirrus clouds that drift through our lives— everything fades and changes swiftly even before we could notice that they’re gone.

I amusingly admire photographers who took upon themselves to capture clouds in pictures— there will never be truly any satisfaction, as every day and every minute offers countless opportunities. And what if the best cloud of the day happens on another part of the world, far beyond the range of their camera lens? Would it be their greatest regret to have lost such an irreplaceable chance?

But then, what’s so different with us? We, who keep chasing after that dream job that should have been ours if only circumstances were different, if only choices had been not as limited? We, who keep pining after the soulmate, the perfect one, that person who will be the epitome of lifetime partnership and companionship, who will realize our greatest romance and endure our most intimate friendship? We, who keep striving after those ultimate ideas, the world-changing inventions, the revolutionary innovations, the things that will immortalize our memory or at least affirm the meaning of our very existence.

Clouds come and go, and so do we. Maybe someday, we’ll randomly gaze up the sky and find some inspiration and reminder. Maybe someday, raindrops will just fall— from our eyes, our words, our every lives, bleeding from the skies. And who can tell what these will mean where they fall: be it on the broken-hearted’s cheeks to join their own, be it on the thirsty land crying for comfort, be it on the cold concrete to punish senseless urban civilisation, be it on the sea or the ocean where it doesn’t seem to mean anything at all. Maybe we’ll rumble with thunder, and strike with lightning. Maybe we’ll whip up a tornado in our own misery. Maybe we’ll hide the moon and stars in the night; maybe even bring snow or hail. Or maybe we’ll burst forth with sunshine or be a footstool for rainbows— or reveal a really awesome galactic airship to come to our rescue.

Clouds come and go, and so do we. Water vapor waiting on the sky, maybe wondering if clouds exist beyond the stars.


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