Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 25 published and forthcoming books, including the bestselling When I found You, Pay It Forward, Don't Let Me Go, and Take Me With You.


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About Gratitude and Clouds

Catherine Ryan Hyde

It started when I was walking Ella on the boardwalk of Moonstone Beach Drive one day.  I looked up at the clouds, and they looked for all the world as though they'd been painted on. I could see the brush marks. And of course I didn't have my camera.

Clouds are changeable. By the time you get home on foot and grab the camera, they'll be something else entirely.

I had very recently started doing my "Daily Gratitudes." Rather than keeping a gratitude journal, as I've done intermittently in the past, I began posting one thing I was grateful for, every day, on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Why online? Because then people would notice if I stopped. As soon as people started saying, "I love your Daily Gratitudes," I knew I was locked in. Which is exactly where I wanted to be. It's an accountability system.

I posted, as a Daily Gratitude, that the clouds looked as though they had been brushed in by a painter. Even though I didn't have a photo to prove my point. And, since then, I've started carrying my camera on walks if it's any kind of dramatic cloud day. And a small percentage of my Daily Gratitudes have become reports on "the painter of the clouds," with photos of the finished work.

Recently I was going through my photos and realized that a couple dozen of my cloud photos were dramatic enough, evocative enough (at least for me, which is the only litmus test I have) to be a photo album in my gallery. So I've created a photo album of clouds for the My Photos page. Which I never thought I would do.  I never imagined I'd find something so remarkable so close to home. Just by looking up.

And that brings me to my point about gratitude. It shifts our focus, and what we focus on expands. There's no magic to it in my view. When you're driving your car, if you shift your focus, your tendency--if you don't correct it--will be to steer in the same direction as your attention. So it is in other areas of our lives.

Now I look up, and see the most amazing tableaus. It's artwork. It really is. Sometimes feathery and light, sometimes heavy and dramatic enough to send a chill of the fear of nature's power through my middle. Sometimes there's an odd combination of styles, laid right against one another. Some would be impossible to describe in words anyway. And then at dawn and dusk, the painter breaks out the colors. It really never gets old, because it's never the same twice.

And before I was doing my Daily Gratitudes, I never noticed the clouds. Well, rarely. I just forgot to look up.

The more I marvel at the art of nature, the more my life becomes filled with natural art. Try it and see. Look up.