I know I’ve spoken to just about everyone about my fascination with the clouds here in Umbria — to me they are completely different than the clouds I grew up with in New York — and they are never more spectacular than just before and after a storm.

First, they arrive like the Spanish Armamada. That is to say they mass in the distance and roll through the valley like an endless horde of menacing war ships. Their dark flat bottoms hover high above the valley creating a ‘Middle Earth’ of calm and brightness between the dark plain and the grey ceiling above. Their billowy upper parts, rising miles farther into the sky, seem to have a different plan. There they catch whatever light might reach them from the distant horizon. If I’m lucky and this happens late in the day, the tops of the clouds are often tinged with bits of orange or purply-red. It’s a spectacular sight.

But sometimes, and this happened yesterday, the sun breaks through this overwhleming display of might and God’s beneficence lights up a distant patch. This time the Sibylline Mountains near Piano Grande, just through to  break beyond Spello, beckoned like an Umbrian Shangri-La.

Knowing full well moments like these need to be savored, I stood at my window until the world changed and my musings gently blew away.