Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Finger of God

Some years ago a close relative of my wife, Sally, showed her a photograph of a cloud. She said she took it while camping with her husband. They called it "the finger of God." I don't remember Sally's reaction, exactly, but I think it was, "oh, that's nice," and then changed the subject.

The relative and her husband were members of an evangelical Christian church, and prone to blurting out "hallelujah!" and "Praise the Lord!" during conversations. It's natural they would see a formation that reminded them of what they were most interested in.

(Note: Except for the ghost cloud down the page a couple of paragraphs, which Sally took and I worked on, the pictures used in this posting were taken from the Internet for illustration purposes, only. Don't hold me to 'em.)

The other day Sally and I were on the first of our two daily exercise walks and she pointed up: "There's a bird," she said. That I could see. I recognized it immediately.

"There's a dragon," she said, pointing at another cloud.

I said, "To me it looks like a Great Auk," authoritatively, without really knowing exactly what a Great Auk looks like, or if there is such a critter as a Great Auk, anyway. What the hell, it was a cloud and the jet stream changed its shape within a moment to something that didn't look like anything.

When we were little kids we laid on the lawn and looked up at clouds. "There's a dog."

(This is an actual dog. I just want to see if you're paying attention.)

"There's a giant." "There's my third grade teacher, Mrs. Brimlow, giving me the stink eye." "There's a six-legged pig."

We have brains that process information by putting it in an order. Pattern recognition allows us to remember faces, places and things. That sort of memory also causes us to "recognize" familiar shapes in neutral objects: the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, for instance, the shape of Florida in a tree trunk.

Back to clouds, some people see flying saucers in lenticular clouds. They form around mountains and there have been many UFO "sightings" of these clouds.

Sally took this picture a few weeks ago and said, "I see a ghost in these clouds."

I took my graphics software and emphasized the ghost. Boo!

Look up in the sky. It's almost better than TV.

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