Lost in the Cloud

I’ve lost emails I’d saved as drafts on my phone. I have searched everywhere—in Trash, in Junk, in Sent, and in Received and have concluded they have disappeared, perhaps into the cloud. “The cloud” is a relatively new concept, at least for my generation. The miracle and mystery that all our information can be stored out there “in the cloud” still bends the mind. Who named this ephemeral space “the cloud”?

I am sitting outside on this cool summer morning staring up at a puffy ceiling of clouds above me. These clouds are shrouding the sun and keeping the temperature relatively cool. I know these are not “the cloud” the technicians mean, but I look up anyway for reference and to contemplate the vastness of the sky and beyond that, the universe.

Photo credit: Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

This past week we were let into a view of that vastness with the photos from the James Webb Telescope which sent back pictures from billions of light-years* away. (Who can comprehend even one light-year?) We are told that whatever we are seeing would have already happened and is millions/billions of years old. Any life out there that might be viewing us would be seeing our lives in the 17th century if they were just 300 light-years away. If 300 million light-years away, they would be seeing earth before homo sapiens evolved or at 200 million light years they might see dinosaurs like the Allosaurus.

Webb’s First Deep Field, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours – achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks. The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSc

Where does that leave us? Projected images of light on a continuum of time? Ideas transporting instantly?

And where are my draft emails? In some cloud cruising the universe? The mind begins to expand as life and light expand and thought moves upward. I once read that most people (here on earth at least) see and comprehend only about two percent of what is going on around them.  Does that seem about right? Depending on one’s optimism, that may be good news if we conclude the other 98 percent might be magnificent and revelatory depending on our expanding perception above the clouds, though the idea that “dark energy and dark matter” may make up 95% of the universe sounds more ominous. We are told we can’t see dark matter but see only its effects.

In the meantime I’ll call my nephew who is trained in cyber security and see if he can tell me how to find my lost emails. Maybe he and others can even find two days’ worth of crucial lost text messages of the US Secret Service for January 5 and 6. Those too may be traveling out into space and can be recovered by someone just a fraction of a light year away.

Photo credit: Joanne Leedom-Ackerman


*Light-year: 5.88 trillion miles light travels in a year.


  1. Linda Sutliff on July 18, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    I love this Joanne! I’m right with you – Totally overwhelmed with what we’re reading regarding the recent observations into deep space. Pondering the approach to unlimited infinity brings me more deeply into the metaphysical. That’s where all thinking is going to end up eventually. Right? Meanwhile I hope your nephew can find your significant e-mails. As for me …. I have a handful of obliging young tech-y friends that I call on mercilessly on a rather frequent basis, hoping they don’t tire of the requests for help!

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:00 pm

      On earth as it is in cyberspace…or something like that, at least in relative terms. Thank you for reading!

  2. Vjollca Shtylla on July 18, 2022 at 3:31 pm

    This is truly wonderful, Joanne. Summing up the unknown of the cloud and the universe in a few simple, clear and beautiful lines that give life to what I’ve been thinking about but did not even try to put down in writing. I’m simply in awe of the space scientists who can figure out the details of the light-years and the infinity captured by the most complex lens ever put together by humans. If they can do this, there is certainly a way to find your lost emails, and most importantly those deleted by the Secret Service.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:01 pm

      Yes, let us hope…for both!

  3. Azar Nafisi on July 18, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    Joanne, mesmerized while reading your reflections.
    Hope you will find your lost emails.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:02 pm

      Thank you, Azar. Alas, I’ve decided just to rewrite them!

  4. Gail O on July 18, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    How can we comprehend deep space, deep time, or deep longing when we can barely comprehend that what we put in our cell phones and computers daily is landing in “the cloud” – where it may lie for eons while we search just for that lost evite or years ago photos of old friends or family members we want to retrieve for their memorials.
    Your “Lost in the Cloud” blog has me lost in thought.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:03 pm

      So good to hear from you and your thoughts, Gail!

  5. Graciela (Ciel) Lagumen on July 18, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Joanne, your summation of cloud is far above my comprehension of cloud per se as it is in this digital age, in time my brain get into deep interchange of the digital term cloud from what my eyes could see as I look up above the sky and see those dancing clouds as I know from my formative years. Hoping that the so-called digital storage “cloud” will help you retrieve, the e-mails/document lost from your file. Most importantly the retrieval of the e-mail deleted by the Secret Service.

    Enjoy the days of remaining summer husbanded with climate change.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:05 pm

      Thank you, Ceil. And light from your childhood years, if scientists are correct, is still out there somewhere.

  6. Malcolm O'Hagan on July 18, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks, Joanne for his uplifting piece.

    My big worry is a cloud burst!

    Perhaps the dark matter is constituted of the souls of all those who have gone before us.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:06 pm

      I love that image of a cloud burst and all the accumulated information and emails and news clippings etc of us mortals raining down on us!

  7. robert forrest on July 18, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    Always enjoy reaing your BLOGS.
    This one especially as I wounder were my lost info is and witch cloud has it.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:08 pm

      Or maybe it is list between clouds!

  8. Janice Moss on July 18, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    Even back in our Bagpipe days, it was clear that you were destined to have a career using your stellar writing talent. So glad that happened!
    Janice Moss, aka Jan Roth

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 8:09 pm

      Very nice to hear from you over all the years. The Bagpipe still abides!

  9. John Towriss on July 18, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    Fun summer read Joanne. Many thanks.

  10. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 18, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks, John!

  11. Dorie McGuiness on July 19, 2022 at 7:54 am

    What a delightful read this morning…thank you for starting my day out with a fascinating and beautifully written piece! 👏🏻

  12. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 19, 2022 at 8:09 am

    Thank you, Dorie, for reading!

  13. Sylvester Danson on July 20, 2022 at 5:25 am

    Poetic! Beautiful!

  14. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 20, 2022 at 7:30 am

    Thank you, Danson!

  15. Ronny on July 23, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    What a beautiful piece, Joanne. Thanks for the insights.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 26, 2022 at 4:38 pm

      Thank you, Ronny!

  16. Maryann Macdonald on July 26, 2022 at 11:36 am

    I think you comprehend more than 2%.

    • Joanne Leedom-Ackerman on July 26, 2022 at 4:37 pm

      Let us hope!

  17. Sally Howell on August 3, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Joanne, this blog was sandwiched between emails, squeezed into July, and just popped up in August. What a treat! You shed light on where our online information goes to rest – or hide. And then, of course, you lifted our view!
    Thank you for sharing your always enlightening ideas.

  18. Joanne on September 4, 2022 at 7:47 am

    Thanks, Sally. Somewhere in that cloud it seems there is a very large digital eye and ear!

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