Now You See It. Now You Don’t.

We can gain altitude in any situation simply by looking up.

How many times during the day do you look up at the sky? Once? Twice? Never? I am fortunate to live on property where the view of the sky is spectacular at any time. I am keenly aware of the changing scenery casting shadows of light and dark shapes and of stars filling the night sky in a fabulous light show. It is always a comforting reminder that there is a bigger picture in progress, and we can gain altitude in any situation simply by looking up.

One evening around sunset, I was walking outside, contemplating a situation in my life. The situation was bothering me, hanging over me like a heavy blanket. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. I simply couldn’t understand why I had to deal with it, I whined to myself. What’s more, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. No solution was in sight, and any strategy I threw at it fell flat. I was stuck. And miserable. I pride myself on pivoting easily in situations by reaching for the best possible outcome. I immediately start looking for the gift in the circumstance. But in this case, I couldn’t find the gift, no matter what rock I looked under.

This particular evening the sky was filled with big, billowy clouds that drifted across the sky in bunches. The sun was just beginning to set, and I couldn’t help but notice several bunches of clouds with enormous light behind them. The light outlined the clouds, making them look like someone had outlined them with a highlighter pen. Immediately forgetting my “issue de jour,” I grabbed my phone and started snapping photos. The clouds were changing fast; all I could do was try to catch the transformation. The light from behind kept getting brighter and brighter.

Already my mood had brightened, probably because I had taken my focus off “miserable me.” I couldn’t wait to see what the photos looked like. When I looked, I gasped. Photo after photo revealed many recognizable shapes and characters.

Man with a Daniel Boone-style hat

I saw a man with a Daniel Boone-style hat; a dog, of course; and — this is the one that blew my mind — an angel! She looked like a cherub — a side view of a little angel in a dress with praying hands and wings. Frame after frame revealed the final transformation from man to dog to angel. I was stunned. Stopped in my tracks. My mind was quiet as I realized I was being communicated with. I looked up to the sky and shouted, “Hello!” I jumped up and down like I was on a deserted island flagging for help. “Thanks for stopping by!” I yelled. My angel didn’t miss a beat as she continued to float peacefully across the sky. I slapped my hand in the air in a high five gesture. I am sure I saw her wink.

I have always seen what’s going on underneath the surface of life — the details that most people might miss. And I understand that we are in a conversation with life every moment in the most obvious of ways. Unfortunately, we are so busy that we don’t notice the messages right in front of us. They sneak up on us through smells, sights, sounds, people, and animals — you know, regular stuff. The Universe conspires to light up our life in the only way it can — using our surroundings to get our attention. “Hey you,” Life calls. “Psst. Over here!” If we pay attention, we are given a personal message, special delivery-style.

Here is a recent example. I was walking to a meeting yesterday, fast paced because I was running late, and I passed a lady with a woven Chinese-style hat just like the one my mother used to wear when she gardened. It was a darkly stained, broad-brimmed hat that formed a huge dome over her head, shading her from the sun. Her head was tilted down toward her feet as she concentrated on walking. I had recently been thinking of my mother, missing her presence in my life, when the lady passed right by me. Her hat lit up like a neon sign.

Just for a moment I am four again, looking at my mother in our garden, throwing shovelfuls of dirt behind her. Her head is tilted toward the ground as she concentrates on moving soil from one place to another.

My walking pace slowed down, and time was suspended. Seeing this person walking, this angel, immediately brought me comfort; it brought me closer to myself. It was a clear “hello” from my mom.

So, that day, when I “happened” to look up at the cloud formations and saw the images forming and changing right before my eyes, I paid attention. What is interesting is that I didn’t recognize any forms while snapping photos; I only noticed the incredible light forming behind bunches of clouds. It was only after I really “looked” at the photos that I saw the images and the angel. No matter how I looked at that one cloud, I could only see a cherub. She was my angel- — a friend who had shown up at the perfect time. And like the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” her message couldn’t have been clearer.

I have a feeling that behind every problem or challenge is a light that grows until it is visible. That light can change your view on situations by adjusting the lenses through which you see. And when you change your focus even slightly, when you have a willingness to see another perspective, entire worlds open up. That evening, my troubles vanished as quickly as the clouds did — transforming into something else right before my eyes. I had found the gift — not under a rock, but in the sky. Altitude is everything.

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