It appears I’m captivated by clouds lately, and this upcoming week promises to be fruitful, with thunderstorms predicted every day save one. Passing by the golf course (in a car this time, not a cart), I requested another pullover to capture the amazing cloud formations strewn across the damp evening sky.
So I found myself considering the role of clouds, a concept that seems simple: To bring rain and pour out life-giving sustenance to the earth and to those who walk upon it. That’s an outer role we all agree upon. Unbidden, my mind begins running down rabbit hole after rabbit hole as it chases new concepts and discovers other cloud roles.
Clouds protect. They blanket the earth and regulate heat, keeping earth warm in winter and cool in summer.
Clouds devastate. As the bearers of rain and all precipitation, they father tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, flooding.
Clouds garden and sculpt landscapes, shifting dust, bacteria and other particles about earth’s surface — even to the tune of moving some 13 million tons of dust each year from Africa to a portion of the Amazon basin in South America. Each year! It’s the same concept of a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the earth and causing some ecological change half-way around the globe. If clouds reneged on their job duty, how quickly would the Amazon die?
Clouds have inner roles, too. I like to think of them the same way as Rabindranath Tagore: adding color to my sunset sky. Without clouds, sunsets would offer little color to any of us. What a wonderful role!
These inner roles are deep and rich: clouds’ silver linings are the bringers of hope and their fanciful shapes the bringers of daydreams. Their infinite varieties are the bringers of inspiration — for artists and wanderers alike. Their very existence is the bringer of wonder for child and adult, and they hold mystery and inspiration within them, at times wispy and at other times with bold abandon.
It’s the inner role of clouds that gives them substance, meaning, and importance far beyond their outer roles of rain-bearer, protector, destroyer, ecologist, or gardener. Those are the inner roles that whisper, that play about our awareness with a subtle caress.
Like clouds, we too have our inner roles and our outer roles. To the world, we may be a parent, a spouse, an upstanding citizen or a ne’er-do-well. We may be a lawyer, a sales clerk, a journalist, or a myriad of official job descriptions. But it’s the inner roles that shape us, that create our happiness, that feed our sense of self and make the difference between getting by and being fulfilled. We can always let go of roles that don’t suit, take on roles that resonate, and tweak roles that match our interests and skills perfectly. If we look beyond those outer roles to focus on our inner ones, we just might discover that our personal “clouds” no longer bring just rain and storms, but surely add brilliant color to our lives.