Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Studying the clouds

As I believe I've mentioned from time to time, I'm not exactly a live-in-the-moment kind of gal. More of a dread-the-next-moment type. My catalogue of worries, personal and political, is endless, expectation of doom, personal and political, certain. In this I am a terrible communist indeed, and it's a constant struggle to push down my innate pessimism. In my own defense let me say that I do make this effort earnestly, I do foment revolutionary optimism in my own psyche daily, so I hope I get some credit for that. Then too, there's this contradiction: I am also an inveterate fantasist, a daydreamer. In the midst of everything else, I'm quite capable of stopping to, if not smell the roses, confabulate imaginary flowers. For my feverish little brain is always concocting all sorts of story lines, for me, my family, my comrades, my class, the struggle, the planet--story lines that are, come to think of it, fully imbued with hope. Perhaps, then, the pessimism is merely the surface layer. Perhaps my daydreaminess reveals a fundament of optimism after all.

These musings are occasioned by the book I've just started: The Cloud Collector's Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. This is a delightful little volume of education and enlightenment about, yes, clouds, in all their beauteous variety. Its purpose, like that of the Cloud Appreciation Society, which Pretor-Pinney founded, is to get us to look up. To stop, stand still, look up and marvel. The photographs are stunning, the pages are informative, and the writing is delightfully droll. I think I'm going to have a ball with this one, and I just might take up the challenge and begin keeping a record of cloud sightings.

"Cloudgazing," the author notes, "is the preferred pastime of daydreamers, wonderers, and poetic souls the world over." If I've just outed myself as among this company, so be it. I think cloudgazing, like its cousin stargazing, like birdwatching or flower appreciation (hey, I think the orchid show is coming soon!) is a wholly defensible activity for a revolutionary socialist. It's restorative. It lightens the load and bolsters resolve, or at least that's how it works for me. There's this, too: the clouds belong to everyone. They're one realm the greedy bosses are incapable of appropriating for their own profit. When I look up and appreciate their snowy formations, I know that my sisters and brothers around the world, all the billions of oppressed and exploited masses, can do the same. We share the cloud-filled skies, as one day we'll share the earthly world's riches.