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Perspective: Look up

One reason I’m drawn to life in our Prairie State is the expanse of sky. Because with that expanse I have a wide-angle view of cloudscapes. Moving above us, these formations of water and ice crystals reveal weather and climate conditions. But they also inspire the imagination of children and adults alike, as well as writers and artists.

Remember “Rows and floes of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air” - iconic lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” and maybe you’ve seen Sky Above Clouds, Georgia O’Keefe’s supersized painting at the Art Institute.

Clouds are integral to indigenous names and stories. In New Zealand the Māori word, Aotearoa, translates to Land of the Long White Cloud. Walking along a bay separating New Zealand’s two islands, I watched that long cloud stretch out and hover just above the water. As the clouds above it shifted, a sundog appeared like a piece of broken-off rainbow - another phenomenon that rewards us sky watchers.

The classification system for clouds factors in their altitude and gives us their Latin-based names -- Cirrus for the angel hair; Stratus or Cumulus for the ice cream castles. But like snowflakes, which often fall from Nimbostratus, clouds to my eye defy categorization. It’s their illusions that fascinate me.

I’m Paula Garrett with my perspective and wishes for a Happy Lunar New Year!

Paula Garrett is a transplanted Southerner and a former WNIJ Blues host. She's passionate about music, travel, research, open water swimming and film.