As a child, I remember lying on my back in the cool grass and watching the clouds move across the sky. They fascinated me, whether they were puffy cumulus clouds that resembled mounds of whipped cream or wispy cirrus clouds that looked as though God put His finger on them and smeared them across the blue sky. There are other forms, of course, but the ones I learned about at school stuck with me.
It seems, looking back on it, that I spent hours gazing upward, but in reality I was probably just resting from a game of tag or recovering from a tackle during a particularly physical cowboy shoot-out. (We had toy cowboy pistols and holsters back then. We pretend-shot one another and pretend-died when we played the bad guy. As a result of those shoot-outs during my impressionable childhood years, I can truthfully report I have never once shot another human being in real life, and I never once died from a pretend bullet. Too bad we can't say the same about guns today.) Back to clouds.
There also were threatening formations, of course. When they turned dark and rolled in from the west with the thunder growling louder and louder and the lightning slashing the sky like brilliant talons, we took notice. It seems we were more in tune with the weather back then because we were out in it. Instead of relying on the Weather Channel to tell me bad weather was on its way or waiting for an alert from my smart phone, we gauged the next few hours by the look of the sky, the movement and type of clouds, and the temperatures and humidity. If a breeze picked up and the clouds were dark, we knew we'd soon have to head indoors. If our mom told us to open or close the windows (depending on whether we were "equalizing pressure in the house" or holding back the driving rain), we knew it was more serious than a light sprinkle. When she told us to head for the basement, our pulses quickened. I remember on more than one occasion feeling fear and a weird exhilaration at the power of the storm approaching us. To this day, I have a healthy respect for storms.
As exciting as the storms that came from dark, threatening clouds could be, my favorites were the huge balls of cotton that traversed the sky and magically changed form as they drifted past--teddy bears into mittens into dogs into hearts into kittens into elephants. On and on they'd glide melding from one shape to another until they floated out of sight and on to the far horizon. Even though I'm sure I spent far less time than I recall watching the clouds, the experiences stuck with me. I remember the smell of grass and earth, the tickle of a tiny bug walking across my arm or the buzz of a honey bee, the warmth of the sun on my skin, and the pleasure of a fleeting breeze that cooled the sweat of my brow.
Each of those sensory delights was a blessing sent by God. We need only examine a slim blade of grass at our feet or view the ever-changing panorama above our heads to discover just one of our Lord's many gifts to us day after day after day.
See you along the trail...