Roots and Rainbows
Completely unintentionally, Owen and I walked in the rain yesterday. When we left home the sky was clear blue with high puffy clouds. Since the temperature was 95 degrees, we headed in the direction of the river, well-shaded in late afternoon. About two miles in, we had just turned around and were headed for home when the first drop fell. I tilted my head to look at the sky – still clear blue, still high puffy clouds. In the distance I could hear the roll of thunder and thought, simultaneously, of Garth Brooks and the devil who was clearly beating his wife. Within a mile of home, the rain was steady, but light. It was as though I was walking at the very edge of a lawn sprinkler’s radius. Within half a mile of home, the rainbow appeared. It was so faint I almost missed it. The slightest arc of color stretched over Sandhill and reaching the ground just at the edge of the branch. Like a ghost, it didn’t show up in the photo I stopped to take. Third or fourth grade was probably when I learned the science of rainbows – reflection and refraction and water droplets. But even in third or fourth grade I already understood magic. Or, at least, the magic of the natural world. I knew that curiosity and beauty, wonder and astonishment and serendipity are the things that create rainbows, that lead us to the edge of what we know and then dazzle us with everything we don’t. It’s interesting, I think, to note that the sky is the palette for so much of nature’s efforts at providing amazement. Rainbows and meteor showers, full moons and solar eclipses, constellations that create dot-to-dot drawings of archers and lions, comets that show themselves once every 6,800 years. And it is more than interesting to note that in order to experience their magic we have to lift our heads. I was picking up sticks in the back yard a few weeks ago. A stiff wind had run through the sycamore and the sawtooth oaks and rattled loose a handful of dead branches. Under the umbrella of the sycamore’s sagging limbs, I looked up for any that had broken off and gotten caught in the leaves. I was aware of the exposed roots of the sycamore, but I was looking up, not down, so when I stumbled over one of them and fell, I fell hard. Nothing to break my fall. I am just now able to breath without pain. The point being that, obviously, sometimes we need to look down. We have to watch our steps when we are on bumpy ground or in unfamiliar territory. Like the past five months. The danger is that when the ground becomes level again, when the infection rate goes down, when the vaccine is available we will have become so accustomed to looking down that we forget how to look up. We can’t let that happen. There is too much at stake. We must, even as we don our masks and wash our hands, glance skyward, look for comets, watch for rainbows. We must let curiosity and wonder and amazement have their way. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun and the rainbow melted. Owen and I shuffled across the yard through grass in need of cutting. We walked under the place where the rainbow had been and into the house guarded by a sky where magic lives.