At Colorado National Monument the park ranger’s gift shop is full of wonderful things. Exhibits and pictures and owl pellets and beetle wings and stickers and pencils and note books and walking sticks and binoculars and every cool little outdoorsy thing.
So of course there would be a book about Cloud Catching.
When enjoying the striking beauty that is all around us, it helps to have an objective and excuse to keep looking and looking. What better reason than cloud catching? The book describes the basic types of clouds plus the basic type of formations. It illustrates how clouds change as they rise high in the skies (ice!) or come to touch the Earth (fog!). You can catch clouds by taking a picture or checking them off on a list, or just look at them for as long as you’d like.
Cloud catching seems to be the perfect thing to do when thinking about Memento Mori; to remember death. The symbolism of this theme was captured by many different things in art and society: skulls, bones, hourglass, scythe, cut flower, over-ripened fruit, a candle almost out of wick, game such as hares or birds, and so on. Bubbles were also a symbol, but I have yet to discover that clouds were used to describe the fleeting nature of life.
But it is just as good of a symbol as the rest of them! Clouds float over the horizon, disappearing and reappearing, taking endlessly different shapes, so does our own humanity. To reflect on the spirit of life is not to become morbidly fascinated with death or to do whatever you want because we’re all going to die anyway. It is to simply be aware that death happens to all of us. As clouds disappear over the far side of the mountain, so too will we disappear from this life. To consider eternity and all the different ways we’ll be a part of it, as a droplet of water moves from oceans to clouds float over the land again.
Our society perhaps has focused too much on trying to evade death, like trying to nail down clouds to the sky rather than accept that they will float on by. Yet once we face our end instead of trying to evade it, what’s really important will rise to the surface and the things we’ve been wasting our time on will sink away. I think a good member of the cloud appreciation society catches the clouds as they come, accepts that they will go as they may, and takes the time to appreciate the clouds with us here in the present.