Friday, June 21, 2013

That Rainbow

Remember that rainbow?

If you'd never seen one, or if it had been a long time since you'd seen one, this was the rainbow to see. Not just a rainbow, but an arc-en-ciel.  That kind of rainbow. Like playing the word RAINBOW for 82 points in a Scrabble game.

So I'm here to try and hold onto it.

This was on Monday, 6/17, early evening. It had been raining and storming most of the day, a bad-tempered afternoon, grumbling with thunder. My father-in-law, Charlie, was with us and I think dinner was over (no Colbert to divide our  attention) when he got up and  moved with purpose to the front windows. I saw with surprise that the sun was out. Brilliantly. But that wasn't it. "Do you want to see a rainbow?" he asked.

We all hurried outside. There it was, spanning the sky across the street, vivid enough to be spread across two pages in a picture book. The two "then that means..." ingredients were there, sun and still-splashing rain, but the product was past the process now. It was steadily ripening, subject to scrutiny, of the gape and gawk variety.

It was clearly a double rainbow, which seldom makes it to the picture books, but always feels like a little extra in the paycheck, ephemeral though it is, with the colors in reverse.

The colors. The phenom itself. In the spectrum of sky events, of which recent ones have been dread conclusions, dark and destructive, what to make of this myth? Seven colors, arched in unison, polite but meaningful, a rare logo signifying—itself. Shape and hue and accidents of science. A casual weather ad and "your message here."

Or no message here, any more than a morning hermit thrush song or the air-water-sun-ordained instructions of the troposphere.

And why that two-tone sky shading? Dark above the arc, light below? Tell me, you physicist, you meteorologist; I don't want to know.

Matt wasn't with us. He was having supper in an Arlington restaurant, nearly home from his camping trip. Should I call him? Parental intrusion or aesthetic uplift? Err on the side of duty. "Hey, Matt—if you want to see a fantastic rainbow, go outside." "Where?" "Look toward Cambridge. Or just look up. You'll see it." "Oh, wow." (A dad's reward.) "Thanks." (No thanks necessary.)

Then came the picture-taking: kind of puny and pathetic, holding up a cell phone to the sky, another eye, the one with the literal memory, though bound to be juiceless next to the thing itself, kind of like these words.

But how could it be otherwise? Only a rainbow can be a rainbow.

Reluctant to leave it, we left it. It seemed to fade, then strengthened. It lingered against the roofs and chimneys. The setting sun robbed it of energy at last.

It became a Did you see it? topic of conversation. It appeared in the newspaper—it wasn't just ours, but apparently all of Boston's—in amateur photographs and in the form of a How Rainbows Form diagram in the Metro section, illustrating the bending of colors, twice or three times, inside a giant round raindrop.

That was the last I saw of it until now.

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