Doug McAbee
Cloud Mother
August 19, 2016

The Earth’s waters are primeval. The water that now fills our oceans and our bodies and animates our environment is the same water that provided a home to the first forms of life four billion years ago.

Water is everywhere. It gets around like nothing else on earth. Rain falls from the clouds, gathers in streams and rivers. It freezes in snow, and writes ancient history into glaciers and polar ice fields. It irrigates fields, and hides out in dense forests and underground soils. Its inevitable liquid destination is the vastness of oceans—but there it churns, evaporates and rises to sail through the skies in an infinite variety of cloud forms.

The water cycle is what keeps life on earth—the Biosphere—in sustainable balance. Like other greenhouse gases, water vapor holds the sun’s warmth close to the earth’s surface; the oceans are vast thermostats. Water, in the quality of its short-term presence or absence, expresses itself as weather.

Water’s long-term maintenance of climatic equilibrium over time is a fundamental measure of the health of our environment. As atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide rise, the water cycle is stressed in various ways. Warming water expands our oceans, as does runoff from melting land ice. Warming oceans and skies will also create conditions for extreme weather shifts—more intense rains in some areas, increased drought in others. These changes pose an undiminishable threat to our way of life: to the economic and food security of millions of people; to the health of many species communities; and to our ability to ensure a stable future for our children and grandchildren.

Our waters themselves are eternal—they were here millions of years before us and will be here millions of years after. At this moment, however, human civilization is placing profound stress on a climactic equilibrium established across millennia. Our generation is the first to fully appreciate the magnitude of this challenge. How will we respond? We must avoid becoming fatigued by the question.

Cloud Mother, a sound installation appearing Aug. 20-21 as part of Seattle’s Arts in Nature Festival, offers a poetic and personal contemplation of this life-sustaining water cycle by imagining the sky as a great nursery. Here, dense, fecund cumulonimbus clouds give birth to sweet baby drops of rain—setting our entire cycle of life in motion again and again.

Entering the installation space, visitors will find themselves in the center of one such cloud. Listening closely, one may hear the fragile sounds of tiny raindrops popping into being… and the many voices of the cloud mother herself, embracing these newborns for a sweet moment before they drizzle downward together, each tiny face a prismatic reflection of the entire world.

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Author Bio

Jonathan Lawson

Digital Communications Manager, Climate Solutions

As Digital Communications Manager, Jonathan uses online tools to extend the reach of Climate Solutions programs, and to expand the community of people and organizations working together for clean energy and sustainable climate policies. He serves as managing editor of, and oversees our email list communications and social media.

Before joining Climate Solutions in 2014, Jonathan served as Executive Director of the communications rights organization Reclaim the Media, where he played a catalytic role in fueling the growth of a national movement focused on media justice and democratizing media and communications policy. He also spent more than eight years providing communications strategy, digital communications and design to statewide labor organizations including SEIU and WFSE/AFSCME, writing op-eds by day and designing giant puppets by night.

A past board member of the Washington News Council and of Seattle Improvised Music, he is also a veteran of the Independent Media Center movement, and has worked in community radio since 1986; for 19 years he produced the weekly creative music program Flotation Device on KBCS. His articles on media and communications issues have appeared in numerous northwest and national publications. Jonathan holds a masters degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University.

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