6.25.2011

The Rainbow Connection

Today's post is more about an elevating experience than a person, but what if people could generate the beauty and magic of a rainbow?


   Traffic was backed up for nearly a mile in front of school on that eerily yellow morning.  Maybe you saw it, or worse, maybe you were even stuck in it.  People slowed way down, some just to take in the magic, some to ooooo and ahhhh, others to take pictures with their cameras and cell phones in an attempt to capture the moment and keep it forever.  As kids got out of their cars, they were asking, “Did you see it, Mrs. Gruener?” and “Isn’t it unbelievable, Mrs. Gruener?” and “Did you know that there were two of them, Mrs. Gruener?” Typically it’s a fender bender that delays traffic like this, but this morning it was no accident causing the jam; it was a rainbow! 
   Curious about its power to generate so much enthusiasm, energy and excitement, I asked my middle child to explain the majestically colorful arc.  He told me that since it had rained, drops of moisture were still lingering in the atmosphere and they were reflecting spectrums of light against the sun-lit sky.  Kind of like what the prisms hanging in my window do? I wondered.  So I googled rainbow and found the scientific explanation on Wikipedia:

A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the Earth’s atmosphere. They take the form of a multicoloured arc, with red on the outer part of the arc and violet on the inner section of the arc.

A rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colours; the distinct bands are an artifact of human colour vision . . . rainbows can be caused by other forms of water than rain, including mist, spray, and dew.

   As a child, I was taught that the rainbow dates back to the Old Testament in the Bible because it actually came about as God’s promise to never send a destructive flood like the one that Noah survived again. Wikipedia reports that there are many cultures that subscribe to myths about the rainbow:

The rainbow has a place in legend owing to its beauty and the historical difficulty in explaining the phenomenon.  In Greek mythology, the rainbow was considered to be a path made by a messenger (Iris) between Earth and Heaven. In Chinese mythology, the rainbow was a slit in the sky sealed by goddess Nüwa using stones of five different colours.  In Hindu mythology, the rainbow is called Indradhanush, meaning "the bow (Sanskrit and Hindi: dhanush is bow) of Indra, the god of lightning, thunder and rain."
 
   Over the years, I’ve heard the rainbow referenced in songs like Judy Garland belting out the beautiful ballad Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz, and the heartwarming Under the Rainbow by Peter Alsop, a song I heard for the first time just this summer.  Actually, there are over a dozen different variations with that same title, just do a Power Search on iTunes and see.  And who can forget Jim Henson’s Kermit the Frog singing the lyrics by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams about The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about rainbows 
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, 
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it. 
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, 
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered. 
When wished on the morning star? 
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it, 
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing? 
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, 
the lovers, the dreamers, and me.
All of us under its spell, we know that it's probably magic...

   A plethora of books, from novels to children’s literature, with Rainbow in the title flood the market.  Children from a very young age learn to draw the rainbow as a symbol of peace and tranquility.  Artists often add rainbows into their creative landscapes.  And organizations like Rainbows and Rain, The Rainbow Bridge, Rainbow Canada and Rainbow Kids that use the Rainbow as a symbol of comfort and hope for people who are journeying and working through their grief and loss abound.
   But why the rainbow?  What is so cathartic about seeing this not-so-common colorful arc?  Is it because it’s so rare that it’s so magical?  Does it visually stimulate some sort of therapeutic cure-all?  What if you could build a rainbow?  Would you go with the standard ROYGBV or would you put other shades of the color wheel?  Could we actually see each other’s rainbows?  Would they offer some sort of secret solvent in an otherwise scary and sometimes very sad world? 
   I couldn’t find any concrete evidence about the curative nature of the rainbow in my research, but what I do know is this:  Seeing the rainbow on that eerily yellow morning, especially after a significant drought, set the tone for an amazingly peaceful and productive day.  Children and grown-ups alike were in awe by the beauty and inspired by the majestic skies.  Some even mused about being at the end of the rainbow and wondered if our school could be their pot of gold.  And if that isn’t powerfully therapeutic, I don’t know what is.  If only we could figure out a way to bottle that feeling and put it on the market; until then, we’ll have to keep on singing, writing, reading, drawing, feeling and yes, building, the magic that is - the rainbow!    

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