“I’m IN the Painting!”

by Elizabeth deGraw Renna

I love the sky. I love pausing to gaze at it when it has interesting clouds of one sort or another. One of my favorite times of day is that nearing-sunset time when there are clouds in the sky. The setting sun lights the clouds from a lower angle and they take on beautiful colors. I sometimes feel like I’m looking at a painting, a scene that a talented artist has captured, something I wish I could do also. The clouds might be fluffy, with soft cottony borders, a bit blurred and lit from behind by the sun. Or there might be dramatic-looking clouds filling the sky, thunderheads dotting the paling blue sky and suggesting the possibility of rain, but still lit up by the setting sun, with some of their edges brilliantly lit up, sharpening that piece of cloud. The colors that clouds can take on at sunset and the blurred nature of those clouds at their edges remind me often of watercolor paintings I have seen.

I was traveling by airplane recently, returning home from a meeting in Chicago. It was early evening and the Chicago sky was filled with tall thunderheads and fluffy clouds. It had been raining that day, but the skies had partially cleared by the time I got to the airport. The air had been warm and humid all day and many of the clouds were blurry and soft-edged. Due to delays (no surprise when flying), my plane didn’t take off to head west until about an hour before sunset in the area. I had a window seat and as the plane angled steeply upward, my view was of the sky, of wispy clouds lit up by the sun to create a view of blue with orange and pink highlights. It looked, in that moment, like a watercolor painting. As the plane continued to rise, we were in the midst of those clouds. I was suddenly IN the painting, in the clouds that were lit up by the setting sun. It was a different perspective to have and lasted only moments.

The plane leveled off for a few minutes, giving me a view of suburban neighborhoods with plenty of trees, blurred ever so slightly by a misty veil of cloud cover. When the plane rose again, going higher, it became enveloped in cloud, my view briefly turning gray and fog-like. And then we burst up and out of those clouds, suddenly above them. It was now a whole new world, the tops of fluffy thunderheads looking like a snow-covered landscape, looking solid enough to walk on. Glints of the setting sun shone on the horizon and reflected off this cloud cover, now visible from up above.