The Clouds that Shroud God: a post-scientific rumination

Clouds symbolize the veils that shroud God.

Honore de Balzac

Photography by George Payne
Breckenridge, CO
Ideas rose in clouds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination.

Henri Poincare

Rochester, NY

In meteorology, a cloud is an aerosol comprising a visible mass of minute liquid droplets or frozen crystals, both of which are made of water or various chemicals. The droplets or particles are suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body.[1] On Earth, clouds are formed by the saturation of air in the homosphere (which includes the troposphere, stratosphere, and  mesosphere). The air may be cooled to its dew point by a variety of atmospheric processes or it may gain moisture (usually in the form of water vapor) from an adjacent source. Nephology is the science of clouds which is undertaken in the cloud physics branch of meteorology.

Rochester, NY
We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.

Paul Tillich

Alabama, NY
Breckenridge, CO
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rochester, NY

Autocumulus (below)

White and/or gray patch, sheet or layered clouds, generally composed of laminae (plates), rounded masses or rolls. They may be partly fibrous or diffuse.

When the edge or a thin semitransparent patch of altocumulus passes in front of the sun or moon a corona appears. This colored ring has red on the outside and blue inside and occurs within a few degrees of the sun or moon.

The most common mid cloud, more than one layer of Altocumulus often appears at different levels at the same time. Many times Altocumulus will appear with other cloud types.*

Rochester, NY



(ca. 446–385 B.C.) was born in Athens, a member of the Deme Kydathenaion, and produced most of his plays during the great war between Athens and Sparta (432-404). His family seems to have owned property on the island of Aegina (colonized by Athens in 431). He participated in political life: an inscription (IG II/III2 1740) names him as a prytanis.

He is the only surviving representative of ‘Old Comedy’—which was political and satirical and ribald in the (sometimes) extreme. The comedy performances were part of a competition in honor of the god Dionysos, three playwrights each contributing one play for an occasion (the City Dionysia or the Lenaia). His first play, The Banqueters (428/7), was produced when he was under-age, and won the Second Prize. The Acharnians belonged to the Lenaia of 425, where Aristophanes won First Prize over Kratinos and Eupolis. The Clouds was produced in 423 B.C. (Socrates would have been about 45 at the time). His last play, Ploutos, belongs to 388 B. C. Forty-four plays were attributed to Aristophanes by the scholars of Alexandria (a critical edition of Aristophanes was published by Aristophanes of Byzantium), but at least four were by others; eleven authentic play survive.

Historical Note

Clouds was first produced in the drama festival in Athens—the City Dionysia—in 423 BC, where it placed third. Subsequently the play was revised, but the revisions were never completed. The text which survives is the revised version, which was apparently not performed in Aristophanes’ time but which circulated in manuscript form. This revised version does contain some anomalies which have not been fully sorted out (e.g., the treatment of Cleon, who died between the original text and the revisions). At the time of the first production, the Athenians had been at war with the Spartans, off and on, for a number of years.


Dramatis Personae

STREPSIADES: a middle-aged Athenian
PHEIDIPPIDES: a young Athenian, son of Strepsiades
XANTHIAS: a slave serving Strepsiades
STUDENT: one of Socrates’ pupils in the Thinkery
SOCRATES: chief teacher in the Thinkery
PASIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors
WITNESS: a friend of Pasias
AMYNIAS: one of Strepsiades’ creditors

[Scene: In the centre of the stage area is a house with a door to Socrates’ educational establishment, the Thinkery.* On one side of the stage is Strepsiades’ house, in front of which are two beds. Outside the Thinkery there is a small clay statue of a round goblet, and outside Strepsiades’ house there is a small clay statue of Hermes. It is just before dawn. Strepsiades and Pheidippides are lying asleep in the two beds. Strepsiades tosses and turns restlessly. Pheidippides lets a very loud fart in his sleep. Strepsiades sits up wide awake]

University of Buffalo

Cumulus Clouds (below)

Detached, generally dense clouds and with sharp outlines that develop vertically in the form of rising mounds, domes or towers with bulging upper parts often resembling a cauliflower.

The sunlit parts of these clouds are mostly brilliant white while their bases are relatively dark and horizontal.

Over land cumulus develops on days of clear skies, and is due diurnal convection; it appears in the morning, grows, and then more or less dissolves again toward evening.*

Breckenridge, CO
I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by.

Thérèse of Lisieux

Tiffany windows in Lockport, NY

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”
Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of Western NY
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come.

William Wordsworth

Rochester, NY
There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Rochester, NY
Gray skies are just clouds passing over.

Duke Ellington

Rochester, NY
My films are like clouds: their meaning keeps changing every minute.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alabama, NY

High-level clouds form above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) and since the temperatures are so cold at such high elevations, these clouds are primarily composed of ice crystals. High-level clouds are typically thin and white in appearance, but can appear in a magnificent array of colors when the sun is low on the horizon.

Rochester, NY
Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.

Lord Byron

Rochester, NY

“To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out: “I am an evening cloud too.” They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me. Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings. That is how evening clouds greet each other. They had recognized me.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God: A New Translation

Omaha, Nebraska
The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.

Albert Camus

University of Buffalo

“And from the midst of cheerless gloom
I passed to bright unclouded day.”
Emily Brontë

Rochester, NY
O wise man! Give your wealth only to the worthy and never to others. The water of the sea received by the clouds is always sweet.


Alabama, NY

Low clouds are of mostly composed of water droplets since their bases generally lie below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). However, when temperatures are cold enough, these clouds may also contain ice particles and snow.

Watkins Glen, NY
It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are… than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.
Henry David Thoreau
University of Buffalo
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

Saint Augustine

Rochester, NY





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