Clouds help me to reflect on life.
I missed them this summer, well, not totally, because I thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine and warmth of our summer. I was reminded of how much clouds add to our landscape one day recently as I was crossing the Juneau-Douglas Bridge. I saw so many clouds that day — billowing ones, fast-moving ones, puffy ones that looked so much like cotton candy that I wanted to reach up and grab them. Everywhere I looked there were clouds. I had a hard time concentrating on my driving.
Clouds are part of our reality here, so I decided early on when I moved to Juneau that I would learn to appreciate and even enjoy their existence.
I have a special chair that I use for my morning prayer. From that chair I can see Mount Roberts and downtown Juneau, but some days I don’t see any of this. Early morning fog often covers the channel. I know the familiar landmarks of downtown — the dark red of Centennial Hall, the yellow Gold Belt Hotel and the library/parking garage with the multi-colored mural — all will be there when the fog lifts. I know the fog is temporary and I know what it is hiding so I can manage the fog without much of a problem, unless I want to leave town that day on Alaska Airlines.
Life however, is not so predictable. I don’t know on a given day when I am struggling with a crisis, such as news that my sister has leukemia, what the “landscape” will look like when the cloud lifts. Will she go into remission, will she be healed through treatment, or will this take her life? I have to trust that God is with her through the fog and that eventually there will be clarity.
Then there are the low-lying clouds that fill the sky and block my view of the mountains — is there termination dust up there or not? I am annoyed — why are these clouds preventing me from seeing the changing colors? Why are they adding darkness to my life? What am I missing? The landscape may change, but I do know all will be clear soon.
When those moments of darkness come I can be so affected by them that I lose perspective and I lose sight of the fact that the darkness, the clouds, are only for a while. It’s hard to be in darkness and not see clearly, but when I reflect on God’s presence with me even in darkness, it helps me to get through these times. It’s tempting to do whatever I can to end the darkness, forgetting that it will leave, and that light will once again be in my life.
Clouds are a mixture — they can also be delightful and whimsical. Do you remember, as a child, lying on your back (when the grass was dry), looking up at the clouds, and trying to make out a shape? You might see an old man or a woman’s head with lots of curls. That wonderful imagination we had as children never leaves us — I need to be reminded of this.
Sometimes I watch clouds rising from the trees. It’s like watching a birth, to see something appear that just a moment ago didn’t exist. This is a wake-up call for me: am I using my imagination to create something new in my own life? A new insight, a new way of looking at a situation can change my perspective. This is ongoing and should always be a part of my life.
When one of my friends was first told that she had Alzheimer’s, she was devastated. She began to spend long hours looking out the window at the clouds. Was this an experience of God for her? I believe it was, for these times brought her peace and serenity and, finally, acceptance.
In the book The Cloud of Unknowing, a spiritual guide written in the 14th century, the anonymous author wrote: “This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason…”
Yes, the clouds are my constant reminder that God is close and yet remains a mystery.
• Sister Marie Lucek, OP, is the Pastoral Associate at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.