Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Cloud Collector's Handbook and Clutter

You may think this topic is a bit off-base for The Thoughtful Consumer, but stay with me!

Yesterday I read an article in the Science section of the NY Times entitled, "A Guide to Entice Heads into the Clouds," by Cornelia Dean. It's about Gavin Pretor-Pinney's new book, The Cloud Collector's Handbook:

"The book teaches readers how to identify clouds they have seen and gives them a place to record the sightings, just the way birders create life lists of the birds they have spotted. It even has a scoring system, in which cloudspotters receive 10 points for ordinary clouds like nimbostratus, the more or less featureless rain clouds people typically have in mind when they say clouds are depressing; 40 points for a cumulonimbus storm cloud, the anvil-shaped 'king of clouds'; and more points for more exotic formations.  His goal, Mr. Pretor-Pinney said in an interview, is to help readers escape the tyranny of 'blue sky thinking' and to understand and appreciate the beauty of a cloudy day."

I happen to like looking at clouds, so I would have enjoyed the article anyway. (I think even sunny day lovers will like the spectacular photos in this gorgeous related slide show.) But there are two observations in the article that I want to share with you. First (italics are mine):

"True, [Pretor-Pinney] acknowledges, clouds are ephemeral, 'magicked into being' by the atmosphere and constantly changing. And, of course, they cannot actually be gathered up and stored away. But as Mr. Pretor-Pinney sees it, you don’t have to possess something to collect it: 'You just have to notice it and record it."'

Learning to look at something you'd like to have for yourself and then walk away from it is a skill that's mandatory to develop if you don't want your home to be overrun with stuff. But I'm particularly fond of the idea of recording something as an alternate way of collecting. A collection without a collection!

I've been doing something similar on Facebook. Because I'm interested in vintage advertising and packaging, I've collected many photographs of old fashioned typewriter ribbon tins. The graphic design on such a small package is clever so I decided to use them as profile pictures. My collection exists only in digital form but, like any true collector, I'm enjoying sharing it with my Facebook friends.

And here's another wise observation from Mr. Pretor-Pinney's cloud collecting handbook:

"'Happiness does not come from wanting to be somewhere else,' he said. 'Happiness comes from finding beauty and a stimulation or interest in the everyday surroundings in which you find yourself."'

How can we find beauty, stimulation or interest in our everyday lives if we always want more stuff and our lives are filled with clutter?

Let's live uncluttered lives so we can take time to look at the clouds!

© 2011 Cynthia Friedlob
Image credit: MarcelTH at Stock.Xchng


Renee said...

Hi Cynthia,
I happen to be a cloud watcher myself. Will have to borrow the book from the library - not quite the download kind of person yet.
There is a website !!! for people who like looking at clouds: www.cloudappreciationsociety.com. I haven't joined, but more gorgeous photos are posted.
I love this post - thank you for going just a bit off topic.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Hi, Renee,
So glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you for the link to the Cloud Appreciation Society. The photos are terrific. I'm going to check out the membership details and I just may sign up!