HYMN TO THE ATMOSPHERE
by Claire Peaslee
Let us now praise skywater, its elemental dance.
Hola, aloha, halo, high and hello.
Let us sing (ashay) of the everlasting gush of micro droplets, rising… rising… on geysers of tropical air.
Marvel at the massive mists that perpetually yield to a muscular lift of solar heat near our planet’s equator.
Water, seen and unseen—a lot of it—drawn from the warm sea. Surging into upper realms of air, there to be tumbled by all manner of push and pull. Cold and warm intertwisting, a thermal yin-yang. Spun gravity, a braided torque. Vaporous water on a wild ride through our moving multi-layered atmosphere (a word that means vapor globe).
Let us deeply bow to the amphitheater where airborn water flows: to the layer of our airy shell that’s alive with molecules aloft. This vital vault, merely eight miles deep or so; always flowing, morphing: it’s our sky-dance arena—the troposphere (a word meaning turn toward change).
In wonder may we twirl our gravity-bound bones. Leap and breathe and laugh. Lucid-dream of floating, flying. Sing praise for a planet with a climate!
Eternal and mercurial atmosphere. The womb-lining for life. Everchanging. Wet—invisibly saturated. Implausibly so: take it on faith. Walk in a warm ground fog (the hem of weather) and feel your eyelashes drip. Hallelujah.
Or read from the book of sky as a daily devotion. Learn cloud language, the syntax of water-on-high; on the move, ever in flux. Behold the alchemy of vapor in transit from ice or water to aerial mist and back again.
How does this Gaian miracle happen? For ours is a rocky planet! Its core and crust congealed from cooling plasma that once billowed through the universe to homestead the far reaches of our little galaxy. Coalescing into a blob some five-or-so billion years ago, she captured the primal spin within her orbit and rotation. A position just the right distance from her sun favored the accident of life arising. Her slight eccentricity—a tilt upon her axis: seasons. All praise such cosmic coincidence.
Yet we are only here to marvel at all this because of the presence of water, enough on this little blue marvel that most of its surface is ocean. So much water: from where? Science (a word that means knowing, as in prescience or conscience) can only theorize how water came to wrap our rocky restless crust. Reconstituted, perhaps, from elements captured in our core and blown aloft by primal volcanoes? Delivered, in part, from space by icy asteroids?
Never mind. May we humble hominids now look to the sky in praise. Thank sun and clouds for enough but not too much precipitation; the same of wind; and cold, and heat. Let us bow as sky-water baptizes Earth—with groundwater, rivers, marshes, lakes, wells, and wetlands. May we mourn our species’ (our culture’s) loss of reverence for this vital circulatory system; our terrible disconnect. And pray.
Turn, then, oh human beings, to practices of praise for clouds. Name them, and sing of altocumulus, cirrostratus, nimbus. Recount their ancestry, and welcome them into your sky. Chant their ebb and flow. Lie back on the ground with your arms spread wide and feel the interplay of warm and cool, dry and moist, in your belly and throat and mind.
On a full moon, when winds on high carry fog shreds through a mobile rainbow of reds and greens, dance the ceremony that you become.
Next time you step out of the market, the library, your EV at the trailhead… pause for a full breath, and look up. Our blood and lymph are made of the aerial moisture, visibile or in- , that now surrounds your skin and cools your sinuses.
We are clouds—temporary bundles of sky-water.
Praise be and endless wonder, oh weather in every form.
Grateful every day for a home place at Point Reyes, California — on unceded land of the Coast Miwok — Claire Peaslee devotes her time to community, creativity, climate action. Visit www.clairepeaslee.net.