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Strange but Beautiful

A little over a week ago, a strange, oval-shaped cloud formation appeared over Ontario, Canada. Sometimes it contained a partial rainbow. People began snapping pictures of it, posting them, and asking what it was. What caused it? What did it mean?

According to meteorologists, the cloud was a “fallstreak hole,” or what some people call a “skypunch.” Fallstreak holes occur when conditions are right, which has something to do with rain falling from only that section of cloud or ice crystals forming, causing streaks and a hole through the cloud cover that opens to the sky above.

Growing up in West Texas, I saw plenty of gorgeous cloudscapes. But I’ve never seen a fallstreak hole. As I explored the fallstreak phenomenon further, I found photos of more strange cloud formations than I’d ever seen, whole galleries of them. And an explanation for why and when they form. Weather conditions have to be just right.

Condition means together (con-) and say (dition, as in diction). So up in the sky, the water, wind, cold, and heat together do their seasonal dances and say, Rain! Snow! Storm! Heat wave! And once in a while, they take an unusual turn and – Skypunch!

Of course, much of what we experience depends on conditions being right. Like rainbows. Or barren deserts that bloom after a rare rainstorm when conditions are finally right to activate long-dormant seeds.

I hear that home gardens have “microclimates.” One expert gardener suggested that if a plant is not thriving in one area of your garden, moving it – even a foot or so in one direction or other – may create the right conditions for it to thrive.

Yeast is activated only when the right temperature of liquid is added to it. If the liquid is too cool, the yeast won’t activate. If the liquid is too hot, it kills the yeast. Bread won’t rise unless the yeast becomes active, and the yeast doesn’t activate unless the conditions are right.

We humans are also influenced by conditions. I’ve been working on a new book that will be out in August: The Gift of an Inner Moral Compass: Helping Our Children Grow Morally Wise. And I’ll be speaking mid-August to a group of teachers and parents on the topic. So I’ve been immersed in the subject of child development, specifically as it relates to morality. I’m reminded that when conditions are right, children grow to trust. When conditions are right, they feel competent and self-confident. When conditions are right, they gain a sense of purpose. When conditions are right, they find a healthy sense of identity. So much depends on seeds that are planted early – and on the conditions. They sprout and grow and bloom when conditions are right.

I can’t control the conditions that create a cloud formation, but sometimes I can make a rainbow with water from the garden hose. When I bake bread, I use a thermometer to heat the liquid just right to activate the yeast, but I’ve missed that mark more than once. I try to plant my garden with microclimates in mind, but I can’t control all the factors that make a plant bloom. And although I know quite a bit about creating the right conditions to help children mature physically, mentally, emotionally, and morally, I fail there, too.

I have to remind myself that I’m not in charge of all the conditions. Even when I can influence the conditions and try to do everything right, there’s no guarantee. Not with rainbows, not with yeast, not with seeds, not with invisible microclimates, not with children. But nature is a good teacher as she continues the dance into and out of all kinds of conditions, season by season. And when conditions are right, she takes a surprising turn and delights us with something strange but beautiful.

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photo of fallstreak hole cc, H. Raab. All other photos courtesy pexels.com.

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