The end of rainbows


Now, there’s the real question: where DOES the rainbow end? In your soul or on the horizon? I guess it depends on your view of rainbows.

After all, a rainbow is nothing more than an optical phenomenon. Water droplets in the atmosphere reflect light and spread a spectrum of colors across the sky. You’ll find a rainbow directly opposite a light source, when viewed at a specific angle — about 42 degrees.

And that’s exactly what makes a rainbow so ephemeral! It’s not a physical thing. In fact, if you and I stand a great distance apart (miles, even), we’ll both see rainbows, but your rainbow is not the same one I see. My 42 degrees is different from your 42 degrees, even though the same water droplets and the same sun are at work. It can be a real mind-bender.

But we’re human, and symbolism matters, doesn’t it? I always come back to the question of where that rainbow ends — in my soul or on the horizon. Think about that. Where does your rainbow end?

Last night, as Charlie and I drove to our friend Susan’s house for a Fourth of July meal, this double rainbow appeared. It made us late for dinner because we took the time to stop (at three different places, mind you) to marvel and appreciate. For me, a rainbow calls forth such a childlike wonder and joy, no matter my age. Oh, I surely do love this weather, which continually reminds me of the yin and yang of life.

I think a rainbow reminds me to appreciate wildness, and to appreciate peacefulness in the midst of frenetic activity. After all, most rainbows appear when the skies are angry and the weather’s pushy. There, in the midst of all that upheaval, comes this glimmering symbol. It’s elusive. It’s tenuous. But it reminds me that life is made up of all kinds of moments, none better or worse than another. When I stop to really look at a rainbow, I let go of all that busy, hectic activity. Those few moments are enough to restore balance, and I’m reminded to slow down and relish every moment.

When you see a rainbow so gracefully arch across an angry sky, what do you make of it?

Maybe you note it and move on, satisfied with the scientific phenomenon that it is. Maybe you hearken back to Sunday school and the promise that the world would never again be destroyed by flooding (fracking’s another matter altogether).

rainbowgolfMaybe you find yourself recalling old tales of leprechauns and pots of gold at the end. If so, perhaps the rainbow reminds you to always hope. (Remember that issue of the 42-degree viewing angle: if you were ever so lucky to actually reach the end you had pinpointed, you’d discover it had moved.)

But even at that, isn’t it a great message? It’s not that the gold isn’t there, it’s that the end isn’t there. Or, as author Rita Mae Brown said: “Leroy bet me I couldn’t find a pot of gold at the end, and I told him that was a stupid bet because the rainbow was enough.”

That rainbow? It ends in the soul.


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