I took these pictures of clouds on Friday afternoon, in my neighborhood, while I was walking my dogs and talking with a friend on the phone. The dogs were patient and my friend had no idea that I had stopped walking and was standing on the sidewalk, taking pictures of clouds.
I look up and it just takes my breath away, what I see as symbol and story, certain light and form. It fills me with awe, to look up and see enough to believe that there is some powerful storyteller in the workings of wind.
I am not sure if it is that moment of belief – the effects of belief itself – or some function of whatever forces carve angles in the clouds. A few years ago, I would’ve frantically rushed home to post these images, as astounded as I was at the abundance of loaded composition and the implications, the suggestions that I gathered.
I haven’t really had the time to do anything frantically.
It is significant to me that I have thought about the pictures everyday, anticipating the good feeling of hitting publish and waiting to see what will happen. There is a part of me that is certain that I am quite onto something.
It just makes sense to me. Even looking at the images on a screen, I am nearly dumbfounded, clearly remembering the feeling of seeing such things writ so large, drawn so clearly, the eyes that wink and disappear, turning into eagles.
Where the hell else would we get the idea for an angel?
Why are some symbols more important than others, some forms more universal?
It’s in the composition.
If you have questions about why there is a small, dark spot in many of these photos, it is because my camera sucks and has a spot in it. I usually crop it out, but I am going to start leaving it in. Maybe then someone will appreciate that I have been documenting cloud forms for over 4 years now and that I should have a better camera?
From an email:
I ended up writing a fair amount re: my experience as it might relate or give insight into the phenomena associated with madness and examples of ways that I figured out – for myself – to navigate. As a peer, I try to create space for people to explore their own stories, to talk about their lives and what means what to them, develop their own options for making sense of their own experience, figuring out how to structure a life/world-self view that works for them, supporting folks in self-identifying the skills and tools (including self-care, and life-skills, ways of thinking/feeling about things) that might work for them. This ended up being quite long, though feels relevant to me.
I also considered the non-verifiable marriage …what it has to do with love?
I understand your concern about reinforcing delusions, and at the same time know that I can be helpful for people to just talk about what they feel is real and important to them. A lot of times, even patient and compassionate family and friends can get burnt out on trying to listen to things that don’t make sense to them or cause them to feel uneasy, even if they are trying to understand.
Feeling empowered to just talk about their lives and experiences, people can sometimes come to their own re-negotiation of their beliefs, and identify what is important to them in those beliefs/realities, find ways to bring whatever is most vital in the belief into their current circumstances, their walking talking world.
For example, I thought that I had been identified by an international consortium of telepaths and the ghosts of saints whose names were not known to “prove God” and “explain how God works” to global leaders and the general public, for the purpose of saving the world out of a profound sense of justice and dire retribution.
Through writing and contemplation, I figured out that it was possible to use art as a safe space to explore that, and that there were lots of different ways to go about trying to save the world and communicate love and compassion to people. What was vital was my desire to create/expose beauty, and also to feel like my existence mattered, that I was important somehow. I didn’t need to persuade international newspapers to run a story on the shapes of clouds to do that. I decided it was harmless to spend contemplative time (a form of prayer?) that asked whatever might be called God to send telepathic messages to the president that inspired pivotal moments of grace and clarity?
I didn’t have to panic over my sense of duty or go stand on a street corner with a sign. I didn’t really have to run away from my life to try to join an imagined Illuminati.
The trick was finding ways to have both lives, all these lives…as an artist and a mother and a person who wants to be able to work in the 3D world, and as a person who also finds a lot of value in the sense that I am connected to something out there, that I am important to something bigger than myself. There are lots of ways that connection can manifest, be.
In my experience, madness has a way of articulating the heart’s greatest desires and the mind’s most terrible fears, of laying open old wounds, projecting longings and possible futures…and all of this is jumbled in with the detritus and nostalgia and memory of our 3D lives and the vast world we live in. In the world I live in, it is not entirely implausible that someone might have a sort of “marriage” in some plane of the heart and mind. We (as Western humans) tend to think about things in very concrete ways. Our culture has done a poor job in supporting us in developing a keen sense of story and metaphor, ways to reconcile what the mind and heart might muster as what is real with what the world tells us is real, how real is established and conceived of.
Maybe there is someone out there? Maybe (_____) won’t meet her for years and years, maybe it’s someone (____) has known in dreams?
I don’t know. Aren’t there stories about weird stuff like that? It’s never supposed to happen in our little lives, but there are stories…mostly unbelievable, but still wonderful.
In concrete ways of thinking a wife is presumed to be an actual person, existing in contemporaneous and aligned time, with the attributes of a person who is living and breathing. As I said, who knows if there is not some person out there who (____’s) heart is somehow connected to in a way that (_____) holds onto. So, what does (____) then *do* with that belief? If a person has a belief they can’t get rid of, a persistent belief, they can figure out what to do with it, what it means to them, where it ought to sit in their life, what role it can play, knowing that it might change and that the belief may, at some point, become less important or even unbelievable.
I believed, for three solid years, still occasionally, that I was actively being haunted in a supportive manner by my dead great uncle whom I never met, because the belief felt good to me, it was a comfort to me, it interested me and caused me to feel I had an ally in the world. I developed a way of thinking about the relationship I had with the ghost of my dead-uncle in a way that I could hold the belief with some sort of peace, not having to react to it or get caught up in it, to let it just be a quiet part of my life, a ghost. My life didn’t have to be all about me and me dead great uncle. True, I felt like I was *supposed to* quit everything and write a book about him, but I made a deal in which the experienced ghost understood that I would just have to do my best to maybe get around to that one day, that it was complicated and I needed to hang out with my kids, go to my job, that it wasn’t the right time to quit everything and write a book with a ghost, but that if the ghost were patient, and if was patient – because I really wanted to write a book with that ghost, it felt like all I have ever wanted to do in the world, like what I was supposed to do – well, that maybe it would happen someday, or maybe in the next life, so to speak.
I do understand and appreciate that there is some cultural apprehension/unease around such concepts, such realities plain spoken as if they are real. People aren’t supposed to believe in things that are outside the range of the normative bizarre…even if they are harmless, even if they are helpful.
The culture of the United States tells people to use their imaginations and exposes us to all these fanciful animations of fantastic strange complicated terrifying inspiring stories of ghosts and teleportation, codes and magic, cartoon worlds and other realms, unlikely heroes…yet, is intolerant of “everyday people” believing things that might seem strange. How can people see nothing?
In some realm of my life in which hardly anyone knows or cares that I most happy when I am watching clouds and writing things that have nothing to do with times and places, writing in my own voice…I am writing essays to myself on my phone in an effort to figure out what I am doing and why.
Phone pictures of recent drawings. That little bottlebrush kept me from losing my mind on Saturday. The little boat theme reworked was for a potential flyer.
*excuse the use of the term “white heteropatriarchy” – there isn’t really another good term for what I am talking about here.
I think that the most indignifying aspect of it all was being subjected to such a stupid concept as dignity.