Cumulus Conspiring to Create a Downpour!

I am a lifetime addict of weather-watching, study, and appreciation. I shamelessly address my addiction from time to time in these weekly photo-essays on Nature-Inspired Life and Living. Wednesday evening, August 10 found me enraptured on my Madison, Alabama patio, captivated by a few energized cumulus developing upwind of me across a 200-degree arc, from east through a few degrees north of due west. They began to draw my attention about 6:30 PM. I will attempt to chronicle their development, approach, consolidation, and the rain eventually offered. One note worth mentioning is that while my iPhone captures some spectacular sky images, I struggled to convey with these photos the massive vertical reach that the clouds presented. They towered above me, yet I could not make clear that some of the images called for me to aim a good 70-80 degrees above the horizon.

I snapped my first image at 6:41 to the SSW of my position. A minute later I pulled the handsome cumulus closer with the telephoto, reaching beyond the lower level cumulus scudding across the foreground. Note the airliner heading south on its final approach to the Huntsville Airport.


Rapid vertical growth characterized this beauty. I offer a wild estimate that it was ascending at hundreds of feet per minute. I snapped these images at 6:44 and 6:45 PM, just under an hour from the day’s 7:42 PM sunset.


With magnification at 6:46 PM, I caught its top unobstructed. The cloud itself captured my attention. I had little appreciation at the time for the purity and intensity of the firmament above it.



By 6:47 this view (below left) shows the ever-evolving top once again, and the full profile from base to summit right.


I snapped the final photo from the SSW perspective at 6:49, just five minutes before I recorded a two-minute video, presented later.



I will now shift my observation view to WSW, this one at 6:47 PM. The descending sun more directly backlights these twin towers.



Just two and three minutes later (6:48 and 6:49 PM), three distinct rising profiles define the view.


They’ve reached much further above the pine tops by 6:52 and 6:53 PM. Again, I want to stress that the photos do not clearly depict the height of the clouds nor how closely they were approaching.


At 6:50 PM, I am now peering to the SSE at the flank of a cumulonimbus (already dropping rain and sounding thunder). The cell to the SSW is off to the right of this image.



Here is that same view just two and three minutes later (6:52 and 6:53 PM). I managed to capture the tops as the darkening undersides advanced at a pace that would soon have obscured the still sunlit tops.


At 6:54 I began recording this short video. It better captures the conspiring cumulus and their relative proximity to me.


After recording the video I retreated to my patio, under roof (6:57 and 6:58 PM), still viewing SSE at the thunderstorm on the left side of what I am facing, converging toward my position.














Less than ten minutes later (7:06 and 7:07), the cumulus I had photographed to my SSW and WSW were dropping consolidated curtains of heavy rain, in these images merging with the rain shield from the aforementioned thunderstorm. I love the idea that we are able to observe the rain-free world beyond the closing curtains! So much in Nature is shrouded by mystery. I wonder how few people even bother to look. Did anyone else watch the show I just witnessed, free of charge?


By 7:20 and 7:21 PM the curtains enveloped my domicile. I measured 0.34-inches, a nice summer afternoon dousing.


I would have paid money for these 40 minutes of absolute joy and fulfillment. Except for the existing cell to the SSE, when I began observing, none of the clouds to the south through WNW had dropped any rain. Before my eyes, they grew rapidly and ultimately conjoined across the entire 200 degree arc. There was no assurance that their merger would reward my patience. Had the CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) been less robust, their rising may not have reached a point of consummation. I am grateful that the conspiring cumulus achieved (for me) a level of culmination (cumulo-ination!). I know, the cumulus had no objective. It was my desire that sought the closure I witnessed.

Nature seldom disappoints those who are students of her ways and fans of her results. I know, too, that my appreciation that evening was far deeper than the aesthetic. Understanding the science of atmospheric physics and meteorological dynamics fueled my passion for what I witnessed. I watched with wonder, fascination, and appreciation. I’m a cheap date, finding deep satisfaction in Nature’s beauty, magic, wonder, and awe!

I often ponder when observing Nature, what lessons for life and living does she offer? I’ll offer a few points available for exploration from this post on conspiring cumulus:

  • All things in life and living (whether business, family, or leisure) involve employing energy, passion, and purpose to the service of reason.
  • There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment, Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Life lives best when we can achieve order from apparent chaos.
  • Life’s rewards seldom derive from long trips, major undertakings, and expensive ventures. Nature’s richest gifts are often at-hand.
  • Life rewards most handsomely when one finds pleasure from what is hidden in plain sight.
  • Digital distractions mask what is within day-to-day life and living.
  • Every lesson for life and living is either written indelibly in or is inspired powerfully by Nature.

Awaken to the mystery and inspiration of Nature — she is an indefatigable Force for enriching life and living.

John Muir captured Nature’s essence:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these thoughts:

  • Nature is an indefatigable Force for enriching life and living.
  • Life rewards most handsomely when one finds pleasure from what is hidden in plain sight!
  • Nature seldom disappoints those who are students of her ways and fans of her results!



Note: All blog post images created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2022 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 the filters I employ. 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!


Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) 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.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring in Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I actually do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grand kids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship to the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any and all from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.