I’ve never really gone in for new year’s resolutions, but I sometimes set a broad and vague challenge to myself in January. This year I thought I would pay more attention to the sky, and I’ve been reading about weather and clouds and stars. Having done so for six weeks, I’m convinced it was a very good idea. So here are four reasons why you might want to take more time to look at the sky too:
The sky is always different. In going about my day to day business, I tend to see and experience the same things every day. I have my routines and my usual routes through the neighbourhood. Especially in a city, the landscape doesn’t really change a great deal. But the sky is different every day, and on some days, different every minute. Out my window this afternoon I can see at least four different types of clouds, at different altitudes and moving in different directions. Looking up can lift us from the mundane.
The sky is wild. As a city dweller, my contact with nature is pretty low, and I’m something of a frustrated outdoors person. There isn’t much wildlife to speak of where I am, and our local birdlife seems to consists mainly of pigeons. What nature I do encounter is contained and domesticated, neatly organised in planters and lawns. Overhead however, there is a constant live demonstration of the wildness of the earth. City life is very ordered, but the sky reminds us that we’re not as in control as we might be tempted to think, and that humility is no bad thing.
The sky is big. That might sound like an obvious thing to say, but the sky gives us a sense of scale and connectedness that helps to put things in perspective. Much of my life is spent on a computer, looking down at what’s right in front of me, and yet I’m often writing about global issues. In the narrowness of our day to day concerns, big problems like climate change seem very far away. But every time I look up, I can see my small part of weather patterns that sometimes stretch over hundreds or thousands of miles. As the rain evaporates off the shed roof in the sun, I can see my little contribution to the global water cycle. Out of the sky, very big things are brought home.
The sky is alive. Not literally, but it is out of the sky that life comes. The rain and the sun feed the plants, which feed the animals. The means of life come out of the sky. Looking up and remembering that makes me feel like I’m part of something larger, something ancient and elemental, but dynamic and changing. And that makes me feel vibrantly alive.