The Clouds That Touch Us Out of Clear Skies

Through a 20-year-old Lynn Shelton film, viewable here for the first time, Megan Griffiths finds a new way to know her friend and to process her loss.

In the year 2000, five years before I met her, Lynn Shelton made a film called The Clouds That Touch Us Out of Clear Skies. It is a short documentary composed of abstract visuals intercut with audio interviews of women, including Lynn, talking about their miscarriage experiences. It reckons with the emotions the women have had to navigate, including depression, guilt, isolation, grief and surrender.

Seeing it 20 years later, in my own process of grieving, the film resonated deeply. We had just lost Lynn suddenly, shockingly, a few days before I watched for the first time. In the early moments of the film, one of the women interviewed says, “Looking, looking, looking, it felt like I was looking everywhere for that baby.” I had been doing that too. Looking for Lynn. In her old voicemails to me, so many texts, random emails and Facebook comments. There she was, even as recently as days before, and now she wasn’t.

Watching this film provided me with a new way to find her. I met Lynn when she was 39. She had so much life before I knew her, and here was this previously undiscovered window into a very intimate part of that life. She had lost a baby, and she processed that (at least in part) by making this film, a public testimony which would help others who had experienced the same loss see that they were not alone, and which would help those who had never been through miscarriage gain empathy.

In this film, I felt the clear imprint of Lynn Shelton: her insatiable curiosity about the intimacies of humanity and how people work, her ability to push her way into a question and explore it from the inside out. In the last 15 years, I have watched her do this in every film she’s made, and even in the context of her episodic work on TV. She finds the core of a film, an episode, a scene, and focuses on it so deeply that elements that others may have missed become suddenly clear. It is, I think, the reason her films have such impact: they illuminate things that were there all along but which most of us just hadn’t looked close enough to see.

With The Clouds That Touch Us Out of Clear Skies, she illuminated grief. Her own voice is heard throughout the film, remembering the night she knew she was losing her child, the pain, the compartmentalizing she did to get through that. She talks about lighting a candle to commemorate the loss. She talks about the rollercoaster of feelings, and allowing space for all of them. About confronting the loss in the solitude of her home with her husband Kevin, then finding comfort in community, in rituals. Watching it is almost like hearing her voice in my ear, talking me through how to navigate this grieving process.

While the year 2020 could never be described as one of clear skies, Lynn’s loss nevertheless was a cloud none of us expected to touch us. Acceptance of this unforeseen reality is something we all must come around to in our own way, like the mothers whose voices populate this film. This year is one marked by a great deal of loss — of Lynn, of so many taken by the pandemic, of too many Black lives snuffed out by police — and one can only hope that these words, spoken over the film’s end credits, are true: “Going beyond where you think you can go … you come out the end in a different place, and you become transformed by it.”

Megan Griffiths is a writer and director working in film and television. Her latest film, I’ll Show You Mine, starring Poorna Jagannathan and Casey Thomas Brown, opens in theaters on June 23. She has directed episodes of the Duplass Brothers’ Room 104 for HBO, Animal Kingdom for TNT, Prodigal Son for Fox, as well as shows for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and EPIX. Her most recent feature, Sadie (starring Sophia Mitri Schloss, Melanie Lynskey, John Gallagher Jr, Danielle Brooks and Tony Hale), premiered at SXSW 2018 and is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Her feature work also includes The Night Stalker (starring Lou Diamond Phillips as serial killer Richard Ramirez), Lucky Them (starring Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt and Johnny Depp), Eden (starring Jamie Chung, Matt O’Leary and Beau Bridges) and The Off Hours (starring Amy Seimetz, Ross Partridge and Scoot McNairy). More on Megan can be found at