the rain before the rainbow

This is not going to be long. It’s not going to be profound. It’s not going to contain any original ideas. Indeed, if you squint just a li’l bit through a telescope, you’ll spy clichés. Maybe you won’t even have to squint a li’l bit. Maybe you won’t even need a telescope. My guess is the clichés are there, spy-able as a moon in full shining-pie phase. And you won’t even need to open your eyes to see them.

But what the heck. I love myself a big blobby cornball cliche now and then. And rainbows are beautiful, are they not? I spied THE most beautiful one EVER just north of Keene Valley in the Adirondacks while driving home from a visit with my aunt and uncle. It wasn’t a double, but it didn’t have to be; it was a perfect, single arc of color straight out of central casting. (PRODUCER: Get me a rainbow! Photogenic! Juicy, nice curves on her, but not too fat! LACKEY: Right away, boss!)

I knew it was coming. Tooling along Route 73 through sporadic sheets of wet stuff, I had remarked to my son: It’s raining. The sun is coming out. So, like, there’ll be a rainbow.

And the good lad nodded. He knows prophetic maternal wisdom when he hears it. I’m sure he was awed when, only a few seconds later, we looked left and spied the aforementioned refractive arch hugging a mountain. I pulled over and we tumbled out, oohing and wowing and ahhing. I snapped the obligatory pictures, oohed some more, wowed and ahhed some more, and could barely pull away again for the drive to Albany. Even as we did, it started to fade.

And I wondered, as we noodled our way home from the High Peaks, why rainbows matter so much to us — beyond the obvious facts that they’re pretty, and ephemeral, and suggest a magic span to a brighter place. Judy Garland had something to say about that. Kermit, too. But maybe we’ve been missing the point about rainbows. Maybe they’re less symbols of hope for some gossamer, dreamy, pot o’ gold future than tokens of the present — reminders that Now, for all its pressing duties and complications, has beauty enough to astonish and occupy us, if only we let it.

One other thought hit me as I was driving home, and it’s an even bigger, blobbier, cornballier cliché: No rainbows without rain first! No sirree! But as clichés go it’s a good one, at least for me, because I’m constantly chewing on this particular philosophical pickle of living — the one that INSISTS on darkness yielding to light, death to life, loss to love and drab October showers to kaleidoscopic crescents across a roiling gray sky. They’re not omens of the future. They’re emblems of the present and gifts of a past which, still unfolding, still surprising, doles out beauty.

3 thoughts on “the rain before the rainbow

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