Magic and Wonder — A 30-Day Backyard Cloud Catalog

I’ve said previously in these Posts that I’m fascinated by all of Nature’s faces. From geography to plants to fauna to weather. Among weather phenomena, cloud magic and wonder furnish frequent inspiration. I present here a set of photos I snapped at home in northern Alabama over the past 30 days. April morning rain gave way to partial clearing followed below by threatening evening clouds rolling in from the south, presaging another round of thundershowers.

Fronts and systems move rapidly across the southern US as this spring shoulder season progresses. A clear day may end with a cirrus sunset (below) signaling yet another disturbance approaching, forewarning  tomorrow’s rain.

And after that rain, a jet-stream dip into the southeastern US brings strong northwesterly winds aloft. My imagination, cloud-appreciation, and spiritual connection to Nature transformed this cirrus-puff image to the the face of God racing windward with hair and beard streamers trailing behind.

At 6:30 PM April 17, with fair weather pushing east and near-certain next day rain approaching from the southwest, I spotted a clear east-west linear seam in the clouds. Taking several photos as the seam drifted overhead, I identified the clouds as Undulatus asperitas. The Verge website describes the formations as “localized waves in the cloud base, either smooth or dappled with smaller features, sometimes descending into sharp points, as if viewing a roughened sea surface from below. Varying levels of illumination and thickness of cloud can lead to dramatic visual effects. Asperitas clouds tend to be low-lying, and are caused by weather fronts that create undulating waves in the atmosphere.” Interestingly, the page added, “In layman’s terms the clouds look downright apocalyptic — these are the clouds you’d expect to see on Judgement Day, or in the lead-up to an alien invasion. One look at these clouds and you know something very bad is coming.”

No, I did not presume the apocalypse! I did see turbulence, and marveled at yet another face of Nature. The Verge reported May 24, 2017, that yesterday, on World Meteorological Day — nine years after the classification was first submitted — the World Meteorological Organization recognized this cloud type in the updated version of the International Cloud Atlas. The name has been tweaked (shortened) to “asperitas.” This is the first new addition to the Atlas in over half a century. For what it’s worth, I prefer the more lyrical name-roll of the two-part moniker Undulatus asperitas!

In another photo as the cloud seam passed, I see a stern bearded face (The countenance of God?) mid-image and extending from a forehead at the top down through eyebrows, nose, mustache, mouth, and bearded chin, the face slanted back at about 25 degrees. Come on, haven’t you ever played cloud games? Perhaps if I were to view the photo tomorrow I would see something else, possibly just an interesting cloud… or yet another sign of the impending apocalypse!

April 27 at 5:45 PM, with the ground temperature at 65 degrees, I spotted snow falling just three miles away… vertical miles. Snow virga from this altocumulus (at some 15,000 feet altitude) left its signature angel hair (like sparse paint brush strokes) suspended below and trailing behind the cloud that is moving right to left. Virga is precipitation that does not hit the ground, evaporating (or, in the case of snow, sublimating) as it falls through dry air. As with many natural phenomena, understanding the science behind the image magnifies the feature’s expression of beauty, magic, wonder, and awe. I can’t imagine being blind to all that surrounds us. Wendell Berry observed: “Outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary, but is the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread.” Snow virga marmalade sweetens and enriches my daily bread. No apocalyptic foreboding in this image!

Since January 1, 2019 I’ve measured 32.45 inches of rain, about twice average for the period. Another 1.33″ in the first week of May (below). Plant life is flourishing. As the old saw goes, April showers bring May flowers, whether Asiatic lilies or 11- and 5-year-old Alabama grandsons Jack and Sam. Two young sprouts growing in the light and warmth of love and nurture.

As I said in the first sentence of this Post, I’m fascinated by all of Nature’s faces. And I mention now that so much of what I see in Nature passes through my own life-polished lenses. What I see often derives from my firm belief that so very much lies hidden within. Where I sense beauty, magic, wonder, and awe, too many of my fellow citizens view as mundane, uninteresting, or inconsequential, if not invisible. I feast while so many others see an empty table. A fellow Nature enthusiast yesterday said to me facetiously, holding his handheld electronic device, “I have ample Nature photographs and video available at my fingertips, why would I ever need to venture outside?” We both know the answer… and we hope that others discover that understanding, enjoying, appreciating, and embracing Nature is a full-contact endeavor.

Inhale, feel, and experience Nature as though your time on this one Earth is finite. Enjoy your journey through the remaining hours, days, weeks, months, and years of your life. Search for Nature’s amazing presence right there where you live. Anticipate the unexpected — look up; look down; discover what lies hidden within reach.


Thoughts and Reflections from a 30-Day Backyard Cloud Catalog

I wrote my books (Nature Based Leadership (2016) and Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017)) and the two scheduled for 2019 (Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature and Natural Elixir: Lifting Your Life through Nature’s Inspiration) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature. Both published books are available on Amazon and other online sources.

So, what message do I communicate with this short Blog Post? I draw three succinct lessons:

  • Stay vigilant for Nature’s magic and wonder; always be alert for Nature’s infinite storm of beauty.
  • Learn as much as you dare about the science underlying Nature’s never-ending show of astonishment and fascination.
  • Cling to the youthful innocence and a child’s appreciation for Nature’s incessant power to amaze.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire and Reward you!


Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2019 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

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And a Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


Reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through my own filters. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and will understand more clearly their Earth home.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!