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Cloud Watching

     So I go outside and I'm looking up in the sky, craning my neck, studying the clouds. These are real clouds, not Internet clouds. I've always had a fascination with clouds—but now I'm on a mission.

     Back in the small college town of Orono, Maine, where I grew up, there was hardly a cloudless day. I loved those clouds, floating through the sky, changing shape and gradually disappearing. On summer days I would lie on the grass near the swing-set in our backyard and look for cloud-animals and watch as the lamb or the fish slowly morphed into something else and then slowly faded away.

     Years later, on a cross-country trip with my friend Anabel, driving along Interstate 70 in Colorado, as I looked through the sun-roof above me, I marveled at the clouds overhead changing from what looked like pebbled stretches of sandy beaches to white and gray streaks splashed across the sky. "Look! Look!" I said. Of course she couldn't—it was her turn to drive. I kept this up every time she was in the driver's seat, leaving me free to cloud-watch.

     On about the fifth day of our trip, she'd had enough. She looked at me and said, "I' have never seen anyone get so excited about clouds." These days at home, my daughter Christy runs to tell me whenever she sees colorful clouds outside. Didn't take her long after moving in with Paul and me to discover I was in love with clouds. Any clouds.

     But now I'm on a mission. I'm looking for an angel. Not a real one—I mean, not a heavenly one—well, you know what I mean. I'm looking for a cloud angel. I have to find one. I owe it to Tom.

     A few weeks ago at our Bible Study, he was so proud and happy. He'd found an angel in the sky. See? It was right there on the home screen of his phone. He was so touched that he'd found it and captured it in a photo. He had his own angel. It had to be providence. He passed it around for everyone to marvel at. And they did.

     Now it was my turn. Debbie handed me the phone. It was an angel all right—a cloud shaped exactly like an angel, if you're familiar with the shape of angels. Expecting a white angel—I thought all angels were white, but what do I know?—this angel was red. It was the time of the day that the sun bestows brilliant colors on clouds.

     My first thought was that it looked like the devil, being red and all that. Spontaneous me, I popped out that thought unthinkingly. Should never have done that. But Tom took it in good stride. "It does?" he asked. I answered, "Well, kind of. It's red, you know, but it's a great picture."

A few days later I got an e-mail from Tom. "You made me think," he said. I'd forgotten about the angel/devil, but his next words, "You were right. I've taken it off my phone," made me feel terrible. What had I done?

     First lesson: do not say the first thing that comes to mind. Second lesson: think before you speak. Third lesson: find a cloud-angel for Tom's phone and capture it in a photo for him.

     So if you see me staring up into the sky, you know what I'm looking for. I haven't found one yet, but I'm not giving up. He needs his angel.

     Don't we all?

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