Sunday, April 24, 2016

NPM Celebrations - Sky Awareness Week

The last full week in April (24-30) is Sky Awareness Week. This week provides us all with an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the sky and to better understand the processes that make our weather.

When I look at the sky during daylight hours, I think of clouds. That's exactly where I want to focus for this week's celebration.

Let's start with cloud formation. This is what happens when warm air rising up from inside the canyon meets cooler, moister air.
When I first began to plan for this post, three things came to mind.

1. "I wandered lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o'er vales and hills," the opening of the Wordsworth poem that has absolutely nothing to do with clouds.

2. Joni Mitchell and these lyrics.
Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way. 
I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it's cloud illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.
3. Shakespeare!
from Antony and Cleopatra
Act 4, Scene 14    
Sometimes we see a cloud that's dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower'd citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air: thou hast seen
these signs;
They are black vesper's pageants.
I found additional ideas when I turned to my poetry bookshelf. Here are some favorite poems about clouds.

Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems About Weather (2008), written by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of weather-themed poems that are written in a variety of poetic forms. Each poem is accompanied by a splendid photograph.


Vanilla cotton candy
Pillows meant for kings
Fluffy bunny rabbits
Enormous seagull wings

I check the sky at recess
To see what each day brings
I never dreamed that clouds could make
So many different things!

Poem © Laura Purdie Salas, 2008. All rights reserved.

Here's an older poem (maybe 200 years?) by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The Cloud
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
    From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
    In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken      
    The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
    As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
    And whiten the green plains under,      
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
    And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Silver Seeds (2001), written by Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, is a collection of 15 nature poems using the acrostic form. The verses are ordered to follow a young boy and girl through the day, beginning with dawn and ending with night. In between they encounter sun, shadow, hills, trees, leaves (though the word is leaf), a bee, butterfly, hummingbird, clouds, fog, rain, the moon, and stars.

Creamy scoops of ice cream
Under a
Dreamy blue

Poem ©Paul Paolilli and Dan Brewer, 2001. All rights reserved.

Here's a lovely little poem by Christina Rosetti.

by Christina Rosetti

White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

Sky Songs (1984), written by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher, is a collection of 14 poems about different aspects of the sky. Poem topics include the moon, stars, planets, storms, smog, rain, and more.


strange animals
creep out of white mountains,
stalk each other around in a

of head and legs,
chase through the silent air,
tumble over themselves as the paling

sun burns
through their bodies,
and their bleached skeletons,
blown by a rising wind, thin out and

Poem ©Myra Cohn Livingston, 1984. All rights reserved.

Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for New Poets (2002), compiled by Paul Janeczko, is a  The title of the book comes from this poem which is about seeing the sky differently.

The Blue Between
by Kristine O’Connell George

Everyone watches clouds,
naming creatures they've seen.
I see the sky differently,
I see the blue between—

     The blue woman tugging
     her stubborn cloud across the sky.
     The blue giraffe stretching
     to nibble a cloud floating by.
     A pod of dancing dolphins,
     cloud oceans, cargo ships,
     a boy twirling his cloud
     around a thin blue fingertip.

In those smooth wide places,
I see a different scene.
In those cloudless spaces,
I see the blue between.

Poem ©Kristine O'Connell George All rights reserved.

Since reading this poem, I've never looked at the sky the same way again. Now I look at the spaces of blue and gray before I study the clouds.

Let's wrap this up with an excerpt from a poem by Goethe. You maynot know this, but the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe studied a number of scientific fields, including geology, mineralogy, botany, comparative anatomy, and theory of light and colors. His developed an in terest in meteorology after reading a paper by Luke Howard on the modifications of clouds (1803). Goethe embraced Howard's cloud classification scheme and eventually struck up a correspondence with him. Enamored of his work, Goethe wrote the poem "Howards Ehrengedächtnis" or "In Honor of Howard," in which he described different types of clouds using Howard's nomenclature and descriptions. The poem was published in German as well as in English in Goethe's journal on natural sciences.
-Information found in the Proceedings of the International Commission on History of Meteorology 1.1 (2004).

You can read the entire poem in the article Johann Wolfgang von Goethes Beziehungen zu Luke Howard und sein Wirken auf dem Gebiet der Meteorologie, written by Karl-Heinz Bernhardt. Don't worry, there is an English translation of the poem!

When o’er the silent bosom of the sea
The cold mist hangs like a stretch’d canopy;
And the moon, mingling there her shadowy beams,
A spirit, fashioning other spirits seems;
We feel, in moments pure and bright as this,
The joy of innocence, the thrill of bliss.

Then towering up in the darkening mountain’s side,
And spreading as it rolls its curtains wide,
It mantles round the mid-way height, and there
It sinks in water-drops, or soars in air.

That's it for today. I hope you'll join me tomorrow for our next celebration.

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