Friday, April 4, 2014

Inch Four: The Rainbow

Rainbows. They are woven into the mythology and stories of peoples all around the world, from north to south, east to west. Rainbows are threaded through American epics as well. Picture John Henry with rainbows around his shoulders as he hammered steel to beat the steam powered hammer.

When did I first hear about rainbows? Oh, probably in Sunday School as a toddler, listening to how God put a rainbow in the sky as a sign to Noah that the world would never again be flooded. I would have been in grade school before I learned that leprechauns hid their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. And sometime around the same time, I would have seen "The Wizard of Oz" enough times that I knew some of the words to "Over the Rainbow" (although I apparently didn't wonder why the rainbow was in sepia).

As a child, riding in the backseat as my dad drove home from visiting his parents, I would see a rainbow across a farm field and urge my dad to drive towards it. "I want to see where it ends," I would say. I did not understand why we never got any closer to the rainbow, those occasions when dad humored me, and I did not understand why the rainbow would often dissolve when it seemed we were drawing closer.

When I finally learned the science of rainbows in school, my response was not unlike the poet Walt Whitman in "When I Heard the Learned Astronomer." Yes, yes, I understood there was a science to this whole phenomenon, but leave me to wander outside and look at the rainbow. (I feel the same way about stars, incidentally.)

I have never lost my childlike wonder of rainbows. Whenever I spot one, I try to stop whatever I am doing and gaze at the splash of color. If Warren is nearby, I call his attention to it as well. "Look, a rainbow." He does the same for me.

Yet in all these years of rainbows, I have never gotten close to one, never found the end of one, never been bathed in the light of one, never traveled over one. So imagine my surprise when I walked into the study Sunday late afternoon and found a rainbow on the wall. A glowing, vibrant rainbow right there in the house! Right there in the study! Right there where I could touch it!

I was transported back to childhood. At last! The end of the rainbow!

After a minute or two of wonder, I saw what had happened. It wasn't a "real" rainbow, of course. I knew that. There was no raincloud outside or inside the house that would throw a bow on the wall like that. No, the sun was hitting a west facing CD and throwing a rainbow up on the wall.

But I also realized it was as close to a rainbow as I was ever going to get. I reached out and put my hands in it and watched them take on the colors. I ran for the camera and squeezed off a few photos. I called Warren up to see it. And then I just sat in the chair and looked at my little rainbow until it faded away.

58 years old and I was fulfilling a dream that never ever made my "to do" list because there was no "to do" to do here. I knew I would never find a rainbow to Oz. I knew I would never surprise a leprechaun with his pot of gold at rainbow's end. I knew I would never be able to let the light of the rainbow shower down over me, a veritable waterfall of color over my shoulders. Why put something on a list that is not merely wildly improbable, but truly an impossibility?

And yet here it was, my childhood's desire fulfilled. The rainbow came to me. And for several magical moments, I held a rainbow in my hands.


see you there! said...

This gave me goose bumps. We just never know when the magic is going to happen. Never mind science!


see you there! said...
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