Friday, June 1, 2012

Entry # 67 - "When Clouds Get In The Way"

North Atlantic Sky #1  - May 2012 - Jan Bowman
This week I bring good news and bad news.  First: The Good News.  I don’t have “jet lag.”  Now the Bad News: I have pneumonia that has been simmering since I got home.   

Apparently, it’s not uncommon in this age of recycled cabin air for stressed passengers on long flights, but it is uncommon for me.  Perhaps I am not invincible, after all.  

North Atlantic Sky #2 - May 2012 - Jan Bowman
So what does any of this have to do with writing?  I’ve been sleeping a lot, drinking lots of fluids, and thinking about clouds.  I took a number of cloud photographs while I was away and in looking at them, I realized that while blue skies are lovely and suggest contentment, I think it’s actually clouds that capture our imaginations, with their variations of light and dark.  Their interesting, recognizable shapes connect at some primal level, just as good fiction does. Dramatic events unfold every day in the skies overhead in whatever place we find ourselves. Weather is everywhere. We only need to look up and think of the complex layered possibilities in cloud structure that also exists in fiction -  as metaphors - in the ways peoples, communities, countries and relationships function. 

North Atlantic Sky # 3 - May 2012 - Jan Bowman
So I decided to find out more about the different cloud types and their significance for weather.  I went to an actual book and I would highly recommend it. Did you know there are ten major cloud types recognized the world over?  I didn’t.  Did you know they have amazing names like:  cirrus, altostratus, stratocumulus, and altocumulus? I didn’t.  Did you know that the tufted altocumulus cloudlets which look peaceful from below, indicate instability at cloud level?  Did you know that a single cumulonimbus, with its distinctive anvil shape can reach higher than Mount Everest?  All of this and more comes from a wonderful book, Clouds by Eric M. Wilcox with stunning photographs and a splendid forward by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.  In much of the world, clouds are viewed with a sense of wonder.  They provide complex mythical links to our greater universe.  However, in the culture of our particular time and place, people tend to spend more time looking down, at their i-phones or the ground,  instead of looking up at the sky. They've become disconnected from the universe.

Scottish Highlands Sky # 4 - May 2012 - Jan Bowman
 Did you know that... 
“In Arabic, to describe someone who is lucky or blessed, they say:  'His sky is always filled with clouds.'  What better way to put it.”  From Introduction to Clouds.

And finally, did you know that there is a Cloud Appreciation Society and that Pretor-Pinney is the founder of it?  I didn't.  Here's the website:

Ralph Waldo Emerson called clouds "the daily bread of life."

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:


  1. Interesting pictures and thoughts. Wondered what kind of camera you use? Thanks for sharing, Alice

  2. Hi Alice,
    My camera is an Olympus Camedia D-395/C-160, a basic early digital camera. It was a gift - maybe 5+ years ago and I decided it was time to learn how to use it - finally. It's not fancy, nor was it expensive. It is small. Takes clean, clear shots. I am thinking of getting a smaller, better one...but maybe not. This one has served me well over the past two years. I am pleased you read and liked Entry 67.
    AND - Yes, I'm feeling better today. Regards, Jan

  3. Interesting thoughts on clouds. I have a YA fantasy novel I'm working on, and one of the themes is clouds (being indicators of good luck). My husband was skeptical of my idea, but I'll have to show him this post!

    1. Hi Val,
      Happy you liked the post and photos. The book that I mentioned is really wonderful. Hope you can find a copy and that you like it, too. Might be helpful to you as you explore this idea for your YA fantasy novel. Good Luck. Hope to learn more. Regards, Jan

  4. Magnificent photos! I hope that you're doing better.

  5. HI Pam,
    Yes. I am. I sent a response to this from the workshop, but the internet system was a bit unpredictable and I see it did not make it to these comments. So - thanks for your appreciation of the photographs. And also - thanks for your good wishes. If you are the Pam (poet) at the Gettysburg workshop, drop me a note. Would love to know how it went for you. Wish I could have gone this year. Maybe next year!
    Regards, Jan