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Why I Look At Clouds

On a blue-skied, cloudy day, I love to look up and find forms in the clouds: animals, letters, shapes, abstract designs that catch my attention. It’s therapeutic, I suppose. It’s beautiful, incredible, inspiring to look up and see the ever-shifting, transforming beings that fill the sky. The texture, patterns, color, size, and countless other variations make clouds so interesting. Like snowflakes, they are never the same. They glide across the sky, fast and slow, buoyant and ominous, a fortune teller of what’s to come. They remind me of when I was little, and going on picnics and playing outside. I’d lay on my back and just stare, locating an elephant, a dragon, a man’s profile, a house, ocean waves, paint smeared across a canvas, entertained not just by looking, but seeing the details and moments paused in space. I still do this, but notice beyond the unavoidable expanse of sky. I see shadows and pipes and paint peeling off walls, the world reflected distortedly and invertedly on window panes, tinted shadows thrown by water bottles. I am entertained by simple things, perhaps even more so than when I was a child.  

Recently, someone told me the creative adult is the child that survived. That resonated so strongly with me. People often equate “child” to immature, but I don’t think that’s a fact; perhaps a correlation in some cases, but not a confirmed cause and effect. There are plenty of adults who could be said to be less mature than, say, an eight-year-old. I love to work with kids and I am frequently, pleasantly surprised by the insightful, thought-provoking comments they offer, sometimes without realizing they have just said something profound.

Children have it right. They face less stress, do what they want to do, are happier. Of course, they aren’t dealing with exams, job applications, and social norms and constructs playing puppetmaster in the background of their lives, but they are so purely themselves. They entertain passions regardless of whether they will be beneficial in the long run, though people often say if you are good enough at something, you can make it work. Perhaps this is an idealist notion, but there is some validity to it.

Maybe cloud-gazing is a child’s activity, but I have chosen to embrace my inner child. There are countless studies emerging and articles demonstrating how games and lower-stress environments in the workplace improve productivity and innovation! Low stress? More productive? Who would have thought? Throw in some design thinking and low-pressure collaboration and people could come up with more diverse and original ideas, and be more invested in their work. Also, who wouldn’t want to work somewhere that encourages fun, low stress, and individuality?

I think about imagination, and how easy it was to suspend reality when I was younger. Make-believe was a staple in my life. I could entertain myself for hours, with toys or myself and surroundings. The living room became a castle, the kitchen a cottage in the woods where I went on fantastical adventures.

I don’t know if I could do that even if I tried make-believe. When would I? It’s not really thought of as something you do past a certain age. We’re expected to play games on a phone or computer, physical games like sports, or board games, but to actually use our imaginations, to become someone other than ourselves and construct an invisible scenario around us is unheard of. Childish.

These are the kinds of activities, however, that I believe enhance a person’s life personally, socially, and even professionally. Performing who you are in public on a daily basis without the fear of looking ridiculous can be really difficult. We look around furtively to gauge people’s responses to our actions. Was that acceptable? Am I adhering to the unspoken rules that dictate how I should behave, speak, dress, and interact with others? People retract statements that cast them as different or deviating from the norm. Oh, well, I did that when I was younger, but not anymore. We even apologize for saying and doing things out of the ordinary. We should own our differences; diversity enhances and betters everywhere it enters. Have fun, be silly, make someone smile.

So I look at clouds. I look at clouds because it interests me and I don’t normally think twice about it. Sometimes, however, I am deliberate in how I survey the world, attempting to see through the eyes of my younger self when everything was new and exciting, big and bold, and anything was possible.


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