Thoughts, Clouds, & Billy Collins

I’m not very good at “Wordless Wednesday” because I’ve never been wordless at any point in my life. As an infant, I most likely had the noisiest brain, making observations and collecting ideas and opinions for a lifetime of blathering. Therefore, I propose Thoughtful Thursday instead, and offer a bit of Billy Collins on the English artist, John Constable and being a “Student of Clouds” from his book of poems Questions About Angels which I truly enjoy.

The emotion is to be found in the clouds,

not in the green solids of the sloping hills

or even in the gray signatures of rivers,

according to Constable, who was a student of clouds

and filled shelves of sketchbooks with their motion,

their lofty gesturing and sudden implication of weather.

Morning Clouds

Outdoors, he must have looked up thousands of times,

his pencil trying to keep pace with their high voyaging

and the silent commotion of their eddying and flow.

Clouds would move beyond the outlines he would draw

as they moved within themselves, tumbling into their centers

and swirling off at the burning edges in vapors

to dissipate into the universal blue of the sky.


In photographs we can stop all this movement now

long enough to tag them with their Latin names.

Cirrus, nimbus, stratocumulus —

dizzying, romantic, authoritarian —

they bear their titles over the schoolhouses below

where their shapes and meanings are memorized.


High on the soft blue canvases of Constable

they are stuck in pigment but his clouds appear

to be moving still in the wind of his brush,

inching out of England and the nineteenth century

and sailing over these meadows where I am walking,

bareheaded beneath this cupola of motion,

my thoughts arranged like paint on a high blue ceiling.


The photographs here were taken today at different points between 6am and noon.
John Constable:  Cloud Study — 1822

Add a soundtrack of “Blue and White” by Beth Waters, “Storm” by Lifehouse, and “Ocean Size Love” by Leigh Nash, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday morning after working on my patio trimming and repotting. Nice.





4 responses to “Thoughts, Clouds, & Billy Collins”

  1. The most magical thing about clouds is that they allow us to create any picture we want to – its like they shape themselves into what our mind’s eye is seeing. Unique and special to us…

  2. RM — you are so right. I can remember laying on the grass and imagining what shapes the clouds were making. Interpretation is always at the root of what’s important, isn’t it?

  3. Earlene

    Beautiful. I gaze up thru the trees to the sky a lot. I have wanted to paint a tree for years. I asked my granddaughter who is a college grad who studied graphic design if she could see a painting when looking up at the trees and sky and she answered. Not really. Oh well.

  4. Hey Mom, I can understand that Erica wouldn’t see through your eyes. She is an excellent artist, but creative people get their inspiration in so many different ways. She’s not traditional at all, and if I now think of what’s in her portfolio, her inspiration doesn’t in any way come from nature — although those trees you’re talking about would be excellent in abstract form, traditional form, photographed in B&W or simply sketched. You should do a water color.

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