Confessions of a Cloud Junkie

By: algoressister , 7:03 PM GMT on April 08, 2014

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I am not sure when my obsession began...
I remember looking at clouds when I was a kid.
I remember seeing rings around the sun and moon, and never really thinking much of it.
Even in Mr. Valdambrini's, 9th grade, Earth Science class...
I signed up for star gazing, more to get out of the house and closer to a cute boy, than for any real interest in the heavens.

But even then, there must have been an inkling of my "Sky Delirium", because I actually retained
information about Mars, the red planet... and Venus...
The different types of clouds... Cumulus... Stratus... Still float around in my gray matter.

When my oldest daughter, Geneva, was around 4 or 5 she had issues with Lightning storms, which can be considerable, in New England.
I took her to Sophia's Pizza Plaza,for "Thunder Therapy" and we watched a storm roll through the wide open area.
As we watched, all kinds of information started bubbling out of me. And before I knew it, I was telling her about high and low pressure fronts colliding.
Whether the information was correct, or not, probably didn't matter. She seemed rapt in the scientific NESS of my explanation, and fully ready to accept my belief that the tires on the car kept us safe.

Soon, Rainbows began appearing.
It was as though they had become very rare, and were suddenly brought back from the brink of "Rainbow Extinction", by my paying attention to them.
We saw a painted turtle on the road, and found it a wet home away from the highway.
Frog catching lesson opportunities presented themselves... Then Garter Snakes.
And, Geneva became fearless in the face of a Daddy Longlegs... Saving her baby sitter, on occasion, from spider menaces... She escorted the forlorn creatures outside and set them free...
And, in the process, she escorted me back to those childhood days of curiosity.

You would think that the weather might have been of concern for me.
But, I never worked a job that gave me license to stay home, when the weather was disagreeable.
And, as a stalwart New Englander, I had a sense of pride about my disdain of weather obstacles.
It was when I retired, and the weather no longer influenced my drive, that it began to matter.
I didn't have to be any where, at any particular time...
I could look up, from my grindstone.

I moved to the, very foreign, climate of Oregon, where all my expectations of rain ruined summer fun, went right out the window.
My learned dread of icy roads, became unnecessary.
Moving to the Cascade Mountains, in the Pacific Northwest, has been awe inspiring.
There isn't a day that passes that Nature and the Cosmos doesn't offer up some unique and beautiful experience.... Drives in the country serve to assure me that I have come HOME!
My need for the "Thunder Therapy" explanation is gathering dust, here, as we have so few lightning storms.
Still, there are so many different things going on in the sky on the west coast.
Eventually, I emerged from the depression that set in, when I discovered I could no longer absorb myself in work and family.

I looked up...
I saw a rainbow, and a halo, and clouds sparkling with color.
I looked down...
Suddenly flowers were spurting out of the ground, in dewy pinks and yellows, blues and whites.
Magenta Hummingbirds hovered in front of me with, taunting, unbelievably bright eyes!
I thought, "No one is gonna believe this".
I decided to use my knowledge of photography, from work, to record this amazing Oregon.

I started with things I knew, and when I accomplished the technique for one type of phenomenon, I would find another phenomenon right along side it.
All along, I would reach the extent of my camera setting, and have to find a better one, for the new discovery...

Since the "Cloud Addiction" took over...
I sit on my deck from before sunup, or lay in bed, wide eyed, watching the eastern horizon for impending reds, pinks, and oranges.
After breakfast I slip out to check for cloud iridescence, and line up the tripod under the "Sunpot".

The "Sunpot" being a sign, that my obsession to sky watching, has taken over my life.
Tied with yellow grosgrain ribbon, to my pergola. The grass rake and flower pot, have become a fixture hanging over my yard.
Only to be altered... disguised... by exchanging the flower pot for a solar fabric lantern. Which is actually much better at blocking the sun glare on my lens and photos.
And, the lantern looks more "normal" in terms of a decorative garden lighting option.
In other words, it functions to light up the yard at night, and doesn't look so crazy as a flower pot on the end of a rake.
I guess I could find a disguise for the rake, as well, like just a long stick... But then, that would be acting covert, about the whole affair...

It is pretty hard to hide my frequent stops on the highway to snatch a quick pic.
So, I just put it out there to my BF. "Honey, do you mind if I pull over, there is a MONSTER HALO up there!" Pointing at the skylight.
Or I smile at curious onlookers...
I am kneeling on the dirt shoulder, on the exit ramp along the Interstate. I have pulled my "hand me down" tripod (from my Dad), out of the truck and screwed the camera to it.

Another day, a couple of neighbor boys want to know what I am doing in the middle of the street, with my tripod.
I tell them "...there is a 22 degree AND a 40 degree halo around the sun..."
To their looks of confusion, I pull off my "kewl", shiny, blue, reflective, polarized sunglasses and tell them NOT to look right at the sun.
They pass the glasses around, and, as they figure out what I am seeing more kids show up....
Now, I am Mr. Valdambrini, with kids collecting around me like honey bees on a hive...
Looking up in wonder... at something so new... that has been there all along.

I work at thinking of this, "Sky Distraction" as a positive thing.
I have learned about the weather patterns in this area.
I have become familiar with all types of clouds, and which ones give the best color display.
I rarely have to check to see if I will need an umbrella.

I DO mention some concern, to myself... When I begin to believe that I can orchestrate the clouds.
I am all set up for a lovely plaque of flat, middle level, clouds... When a big puffy gray cloud threatens to spoil my shot.
I wave the "bully cloud" to the south or north, both hands, Traffic-Cop style.
Looking to see if anyone is watching my antics over the fence.
And, when the "bully cloud" wrecks my shot, I sink into a lawn chair head in hands, an hour of waiting and nothing to show for it...
I am hoping that staying aware of my "Cloud Eccentricity", will keep it from taking over.
I imagine, though, that I will end up like John Steinbeck's, "The Seer"...
...Coming to expect, that the sun wouldn't come up, or go down, without me...

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