David and I are exploring and writing about the spiritual nature of weather. We call the heart of our work Weatherdancing. To us, Weatherdancing is about how humankind can live in good relationship with the spirits of weather, and thus help to restore balance to our world. While writing one day, I was suddenly inspired to paint images of different aspects of the work. I have little experience in painting, and am frankly intimidated by a blank canvas; yet I found the idea immediately appealing. I wondered whether I could actually paint the cloud images I had avidly photographed over the years. Preparing for this project led me to the task of assembling what turned out to be a significant body of photographic work.
As I reviewed these sky images, waves of emotion washed over me – passion and awe for the beauty and spirit of these clouded skies. Before me were no mere snapshots, souvenirs of the moment. I had taken these photos without consciously noticing the forms and faces that floated up as I gazed at the prints. Gazing now I felt the vibration of sacred space. These images felt like gifts – portals to another realm of greater wisdom.
The process of creating this deck was a lively one. I live in an area where I’ve complained that the clouds are so often flat and fairly shapeless. I miss the dramatic towers and complex configurations of clouds of other regions I once called home – the eastern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the deserts and mountains of the Southwest, the northern Rockies of Montana. Yet the very day we began this CloudDancing project, the Cloud People appeared abundantly and with an abandon of spectacular displays – each more exciting than the last – as if they were showing off! I do not recall seeing such variety appear here, or anywhere else – but maybe I wasn’t really looking.
Later on, in a stab at practicality, I chose half the present number of images for publication, and congratulated myself for cutting back what I imagined was excess. I told myself that I would create revisions in future years and in that way could honor the Cloud People who weren’t chosen this time. Over the next several days, I experienced a growing feeling of depression. Disturbed and perplexed by this, I blamed my state on other circumstances, until one night I had a dream. In this dream, I entered a large hall where I was part of an important gathering of people. As we stood around chatting, the tone became ominous when a tall, angular, and imposing female figure appeared in our midst. With a stern face, she distributed food only to those individuals whom she decided would continue to exist. Moved by the devastated feelings of those who had none, I secretly slipped some of my share to a few of the denied ones. The female figure found me out, and though afraid, I stubbornly refused to back down. Clearly, this dream was about the cloud cards and I saw that the female figure personified my “reality check” of practicality.
That morning I reviewed our collection and joyfully restored many of the rejected Cloud People to our deck. The next few days were filled with such incredible cloud formations that each day new images came forth and the number of portraits quickly rose to where it is now.
I feel the weather and cloud spirits are in accordance with this project, and both David and I greatly appreciate their willingness to align with us in this endeavor.
“Movement is life. Without movement, change, and transformation, there would be no life or death. Movement is seen everywhere. The clouds rise out of the mountains and move across the sky, forming, shifting, and disappearing. The clouds become the model for the way people need to move through life.”
Tessie Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo