Look up and enjoy the view while outdoors

The Nature Call: Put the cellphone away and enjoy surroundings

Watching the clouds during the fall can be “inspiring,” writer John Hanson writes. (John Hanson/Community contributor)
Watching the clouds during the fall can be “inspiring,” writer John Hanson writes. (John Hanson/Community contributor)

Editor’s note: John Lawrence Hanson, Ed.D., of Marion teaches U.S. history with an emphasis on environmental issues at Linn-Mar High School and sits on the Linn County Conservation Board.

By John Hanson, community contributor

I noticed her but she didn’t notice me.

That’s not a problem except that she was on a trajectory to occupy the same location I did. My knowledge of physics told me that was impossible. I veered, she walked on and the collision was avoided.

The girl was looking down. You know, that new ambulatory posture of staring into a handheld screen while employing shanks mares. One could imagine the walker was getting instruction and guidance on the best path possible, but instead it was instruction for distraction.

I was looking up — and ahead. It was a fair morning, cool but not cold. The sky was cloudy but not overcast. The clouds had enough character and pockets of blue sky to invite wonder.

Clouds are like flowers, they invite gazing and contemplation. Just like flowers are appreciated up close, clouds demand a wider perspective.

It’s not just a teenage phenomena to walk peering downward into a cellphone, concrete forming the backdrop. Workers on a smoke break, laborers taking five, the suit and tie crowd seeking a moment of fresh air all so often seem to have their moments of refreshment taken up by digital demands. I’ve even seen mothers with a pram, stroller in one hand and a feature film in the other. They’re all staring at their little phones.

But, does anyone really know what time it is?

Late fall is a time of transition for our clouds. Ah, yes, like flowers they too have their seasons. The fluffy cumulous clouds, the great white fleets of the summer skies are nearing their ends.


They will be succeeded by the leaden layers of stratus clouds. Sometimes stern, sometimes gloomy, but never cheerful to the snowbirds.

High, very high above the wispy cirrus clouds will increasingly announced gifts of snow. Their fine ice crystals foreshadow precipitation. Maybe they like winter more than summer because they’re not asked to melt?

Part of our human birthright is to wander and look at clouds. I’m not sure which came first but I know they are complementary activities.

After you put the car in the garage, take just a moment to step outside and raise your face to the sky. Maybe you’ll see old friends, missing since childhood. Maybe you’ll see tomorrow’s weather forecast directly from the source.

Or maybe you’ll see nothing, and then begin to wonder.

Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.



Editor's note: Brandon Caswell has undergraduate degrees in biology, anthropology and geology. He enjoys bird-watching and nature photography. He helps instruct introductory and advanced courses in environmental science and geosci ...

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