Just Vapor ?

Looking up, those fluffy cottonballs seem so innocent…

…but when you get to know the clouds up close and personal they start to play with you, embrace you and then throw you around, they show you dark spots and bright ones. And sometimes they tell you wild stories or whisper seductively in your ear.

In short – they invite you to experience wonder and excitement, they confront you with terror, occasionally, and in the course of all that they might even tell you a little bit about yourself.

The sky is full of life, that’s nothing new.
Mostly, however, its life seems to be moving at a rather slow pace. To watch it from the ground is, therefore, mostly boring.
I’m a glider pilot and thus a part of me lives in the sky, always. All of me is up there, of course, when I fly!
It is then, when I sometimes wish my sky would live a little faster. For example, when the sun takes forever to crawl out from behind a thick shield of cirrus clouds to reignite the thermals.
At other times I want to beg the sky to slow down, stop living altogether for half an hour and let everything be as is: when I patiently circle up to final glide altitude in the last bubble of warm air rising, or let down from wave altitudes through the last tiny hole in the cloud deck before the approaching front pulls the curtain below shut.

When I’m on the ground the clouds show me what’s happening up there, they are the visible manifestation of that life.
When I’m flying among them they are that life. They arise, then rise, they boil and shrink, they separate and unite, they move and transform, they grow and die.

How cool would it be to watch all of that like a movie. And then to fast forward it on a small monitor, a special screen on a PDA or a Nav-computer, to get a glimpse of what the atmosphere has planned for the next thirty minutes….
Oh, insidious entrainment of cold air at low level shutting down all convective activity…
Ah, small change in wind direction with ensuing collapse of the wave system and reorganization thereof shifted slightly to the southwest…
But then again: that way I would just be playing one more video game, would be missing out on the conversation with the clouds, never learn to understand their language, interpret their gestures.
There wouldn’t be any spontaneity in my reactions and thus less chance to discover some of the patterns in my instinctive behaviour: to run away from a threatening thunderstorm – out of fear to get hit by hail, for example. Or to hesitate gliding out towards decaying clouds to make the turnpoint – out of worry about a possible outlanding.
It would be much harder to catch the moments when I only see doom and danger and don’t realize that there might be benefits, too, worth taking some risks: engage with the towering CB in the search for its powerful updraft – with alert curiosity, or venturing out into uncertainty before the markers in the sky vanish entirely – with full concentration.


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