All clouds are clocks, even the most cloudy of clouds. Karl Popper

Living on the European plain (as opposed to the crusty lips of the Mediterranean or the thin skullbone of Scotland's west coast) brings a whole new landscape to the skies. Cloud formations like these ones become something of a metamorphic map that chart within a larger sense of 'world'. It might surprise you the sheer variety of cloudscapes that awaits you just outside your window. To be sure, it's hard to beat the 'flex and flux' of Scotland's west coast, but here, over Warsaw, there is another breed of cloud that invests the imagination with an equivalent sense of wonder.

(Top) Some wonderfully mesmeric Stratocumulus undulatus.
(Above) Some strips of Cirrus fibratus in the lower half with what looks like the beginning of a wave cloud above it.
(Below) Above the elm tree, Cirrus vertebratus swimming across the ocean of air.

In Polish the names for the months of the year do not derive from the names of benevolent dictators nor of mystical sungods, but quite simply from the earth and the elements that appear at these times of the year. December is 'grudzien' from 'gruda' meaning hardened ground; April is 'kwiecien' meaning flowers; July is 'lipiec' from 'lipa' the lime tree; 'listopad', November, is 'falling leaves'.

As much as I think these names more becoming of an earth (and not a dictator) that feeds us I still feel there should have been one name, in amongst those twelve, directed upwards at the sky. One of the summer months, particularly July and August whose thunderstorms are infamous, would have been particularly apt for the title 'big cloud moving', or a phrase to that effect.

From Most Poniatowskiego, Stratocumulus stratiformis perlucidus.

Dawn over Mokotow.

John Ruskin, a man whose word-paintings of cloud-filled days occupy large swathes of his journals, speaks freely of clouds in his epic Modern Painters, especially in the chapter Of the Open Sky:
It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of all creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more, for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her.

A great shelf cloud, with some satellite Cumulus beneath, passing over Warsaw.

'Over Mazovia'. Some Altocumulus radiatus.



they hang in the air

like whole countries

there before me

an unwritten atlas of the skies

Stratus - Cirrus - Cumulus

continents floating

on oceans of air

What with the rise in temperature, moisture and relative humidity, July is a wonderful month for these great Cumulus congestus. It is the month above all, and these are the clouds, that make Warsaw as green as it is. July is the month (not so much of the lime tree as 'Lipiec' would suggest but) of the storm and of great raucous displays of thunder and lightning, and downpours that make a monsoon look tame.

Subtle cirrus, the high-flying cloud - the music of the air.

Some silky Cirrus feathering the sky.

An arching 'rainbow' cloud.

Altostratus haze with a small lenticular cloud in the foreground.

Some wispy 'pannus' beneath a brooding Cumulonimbus.

(Below) Some crepuscular 'celestographs' of fading Altocumulus.

Frozen explosion.

Cloud and crow.

Bone cloud.

Archipelago cloud.

Magpie sky.

Crepuscular rays.

Then, what do you love, you extraordinary stranger?
I love clouds... drifting clouds... there.... over there...
marvellous clouds.

Charles Baudelaire.

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