November 27th, 2002

caillebotte_man at his window

Bright Cloud

I have just observed the most remarkable night time cloud formation I have ever seen. First, the expected cold weather has failed to arrive, so the night is again unseasonably warm. Then, the wind is once again blowing, though not as strongly as it was a few nights ago. The sky was clear all day, and all evening, so, when I went out a while ago, I expected to see only the clear sky and the waning moon high in the east. At first, things seemed to be as I expected. From the front porch, which faces west, I could see Orion high above, and the stars glittering all about. A fresh wind was blowing, and the pines humming. Most of the oak leaves (which only a few nights ago were so numerous on the ground as to sound like a rushing stream as they were blown along the street) have been blown away, or raked up, or crushed by the passing cars. I heard but a few of them brushing along the pavement.

But there was something odd about the scene. It seemed darker than it ought to have been, with the moon half past the full. There were no distinguishable shadows, but there was a glow over everything. I stepped out into the yard, and looked back over the roof of the house to see the moon. Instead, I saw a single mass of cloud, stretching perhaps three miles from north to south, and about three quarters of a mile from east to west at its widest point. The western edge of it was only slightly east of where I stood. The center of this cloud was a dark grey, but all its edges were glowing brightly; a long path of silver light girdling the mass of grey. All around it, stars burned in perfectly clear sky, which seemed all the darker in contrast to the cloud. The cloud must not have been very thick, to pass so much light, yet it was thick enough that the moon itself could not be seen through it, except dimly, and for brief moments. The intricate weaving of bare twigs and branches stood out in stark silhouette against the bright rim.

As I watched, the cloud sent out a long, thin spear of itself toward the north, and the southern end rolled itself up to reveal more stars. I saw it expand toward the east, as well. It shifted about for several minutes, expanding and contracting, the vast center of it growing darker, then lighter. Gradually, it began to tear at the edges, and to thin out, until the moon was visible through it, surrounded by a moonbow. The unearthly glow which the cloud had produced faded, and the stars grew paler as the moon emerged. The bare trees became less distinct against the ordinary night sky, and began to cast thin shadows on the ground. I stood for a while in the failing breeze, and listened to silence fall on the forest. The brief minutes of the drama were over, to no applause. I wonder how small the audience was. Perhaps it was only me, and a few night birds. I have seen many spectacular skies on cloudy, moonlit nights, but never anything quite like this. I would like to think that someone else was watching, and was as awe-struck as I. It would be good to have someone who could tell me it wasn't merely something I dreamed.
caillebotte_man at his window

Twice in One Night

After I finished my previous post, I went back outside and saw that the cloud had re-formed. It is smaller,now, and a bit thinner than it was earlier, so that the moon shines through. But now, the cloud is shaped like a big fish, with wispy dorsal and ventral fins, its mouth agape, and the half moon is perfectly positioned to look like an eye. The spot where the tail would be is hidden behing the pines to the northeast, so I have to imagine it being there. The whole thing looks as though it might go swimming across the sky and bite a chunk out of Orion. The night sky can be a fascinating place.
caillebotte_man at his window

Too Much Internet

According to LJ Statistics, 87,593 users have updated in the last 24 hours. I've seen a few dozen of them. Do you ever get the feeling that the world is not just passing you by, but vanishing in a cloud of dust, like the roadrunner, and that your Acme computer, which is supposed to help you catch it, is about to blow up in your face?

Nap time.