I have a, shall we say, longstanding fascination with clouds. I have thousands of photographs of them – little memories of places I’ve been, or days I don’t want to forget. I don’t know if it’s just a habit I got into at some point in my process of learning to see as a photographer, but somewhere along the line I learned that I could learn a lot, or remember a lot about a situation if I looked up. The sky becomes a way I can interact with a place or a memory. I know, it’s almost painfully sentimental in a way, but there it is. For a good while during my time getting my MFA in photography I had the idea to cover a room with thousands of 4×6″ photographs, all just taped to the wall. I can still see it – corners of each of the images kind of coming out, almost blowing in the wind – years of memories each put right there together.
I was writing an e-mail to someone earlier today, and I paused, laughing at myself that I never made a connection between my love of clouds and my sense of vocation. I was writing to someone who is a bit older than I am, and went through seminary at a time when it wasn’t safe for her to be out as a lesbian. I was replying to an earlier message she’d sent me, about being called to help bridge the gap between sexual minorities and the church. As I wrote, I started thinking about the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us as we make this journey. There are moments when I feel totally overwhelmed by the reality of the situation, when it seems as though things will never really be any different. In these moments I find myself humbled by the strength and integrity of those who have paved this path for me, and I remember that I’m not the first or only one to stand in that gap. It shakes me out of myself in a good way, reminds me of the community of which I’m a part, of the friends and family who are in this journey with me.
The image of the thousands of clouds still comes to me. Only, instead of moments or places, they represent the people, past present and future, who refuse to believe that we are all alone in this world, and who refuse to give up until we are all free to live fully into the people we are created to be. Maybe I’m a slow learner, or just need visual reminders, but I’ll take ’em. Every time I look up I’ll take ’em.