It was well after dark. The breeze that momentarily swept through made gossips of the fallen dried leaves patterning the concrete floor of the courtyard. The livestock quietly welcomed the absence of dry heat – as did the children who, wearied from tasking hours filled with varying forms of brattish expression, play and errands, snuggled against each other and against their mothers; the cool canopy of dusk their covering.
I sat on a large upturned mortar and strained my neck looking up. It was my prayer time. As I muttered quietly in tongues, allowing the hyper-happy yells from the students at the Islamic school out front to provide the auditory backdrop to my sensibilities, I couldn’t help noticing the gentle tug at my lip’s corners. My reaction was hardly surprising – the briefest view of a well-lit sky managed to spur such almost every time.
But tonight’s sky was different.
Since I’d set foot in the region, I’d been effusive about my appreciation for the clearness of sky that greeted me from one night to the next. There was almost always a full moon surrounded by the most sparkling stars against a background of unrestrained black or violet. It was a thing of heart-lifting beauty. Interestingly however, on this particular night my heart still got its lifting and yet the sky wasn’t clear; the blanket of black had streaks of interruption on it that managed to dull the glitter of most of the stars. At first glance, I wanted to be irritated. What did those wispy clouds think they were doing standing between me and what I considered the perfect night sky to bask and pray underneath? But after that initial feeling of displeasure at being denied my expectation, I looked again at the patterns splayed above me and the final tug loosened my tightened expression to permit a sincerely satisfied smile.
It was not a clear sky…but it wasn’t any less beautiful.
For the next hour plus, I looked up at intervals of approximately fifteen minutes (sometimes much less and sometimes a little more) and each brief or extended gaze at a new variation of patterns displayed would leave a wide smile on my face and even more contentment in my heart. By the time I was done, I had observed nothing less than seven utterly unique cloud formation patterns. I went in to my room with one main thought: Cloudy skies are great too.
And to think I’d been looking for a clear one.
For a while I stayed ruminating on this. It’s not as though my seeking for or appreciation of clear skies was a bad thing, neither was it as though there was one thing fundamentally negative about wanting to see every star twinkle as it proudly surrounded a glowing moon. The issue arose when in the absence of my desired clear sky, I was instantly tempted to misjudge the clouds that showed up as unappealing, simply because they appeared in place of what I hitherto considered perfect. If you studied them with me that night you’d see, they actually were just as awe striking in perfection and artistic appeal as my clear skies could be.
See the clouds weren’t imperfect. They were just unexpected.
I’d grown so accustomed to viewing the cloudless night sky as ideal that my initial (thoughtless) response to anything contrary was negative. I wasn’t in a mental disposition to give the clouds that stood between me eyes and the glowing moon a chance to prove why they were worth loving, nor why they could be just as good. No. All I could see were these wisps that were neither here nor there, interfering with my view, moving aimlessly and staining my otherwise picture perfect night.
But here are some things I initially missed;
- The clouds were temporary: With the rate at which the clouds were shifting and the formations ended up changing, it showed no cloud set planned to stay in place for longer than a few minutes. Instead of squandering the short time available to gaze upon them being irritated and petty, wouldn’t appreciating and being fascinated by the uniqueness in each pattern presented be more fulfilling and worthwhile?
- The presence of the clouds did not equate an absence of the moon or stars: The mere fact that there happened to be clouds in my sky didn’t suddenly render the stars and moon – whose presence and lighting brought so much clarity and gladness – non-existent. The lights from the moon and stars clearly outlined each cloud that got in front of it. Thus, over being perceived as mere bothersome blockades, the clouds in truth provided a sort of alternative means by which the beauty of the night-lights could be expressed.
- There’s never anything to see for those who aren’t looking: If I didn’t once look up, keeping my gaze rooted down and wondering why the moon wasn’t ‘working’ or what the deal was with all the shadows choking the night with all the light I’d been anticipating, there’d have been nothing to write on or to have later been fascinated by. Keeping my gaze anchored to the ‘down’ side would not have yielded anything of benefit or positive value to me, but looking up and searching for reasons to be delighted in the unexpected twist of nature, did.
There are a lot of folks with varying definitions of what the ‘ideal sky‘ should look like. We all have things we don’t want coming in and messing up our clear and twinkling, picture-perfect horizon. Sometimes we may even get so engrossed in disliking things we perceive to be clear sky spoilers, we miss all there is to like about an active and filled up one.
Isn’t that very sad?
There’s nothing wrong with having preferences but if we allow a supposed ‘preference’ to so consume us to the point where everything else that isn’t the preference is viewed in a distorted manner, then there is an issue. We need to learn to be patient and secure enough to find the beauty and appreciable qualities in those clouds, even while we await their passing and the restoration of our clear lit up sky. Because after awhile you realise the problems never really lay in the clouds…
The problems lay in the negative bias towards them.
So whether cloudy or clear, sunny or solemn…we’ll always have skies with something in them.
And that’s more than enough methinks.