The night I saw THE rainbow was the culmination of another out-of-town weekend. I was in my 20’s (a very long time ago) and driving home after having played too hard; wishing for any story but my own. Discouraged and exhausted, I headed into the most desolate part of the trip. Endless miles with ample opportunity to feel sorry for myself, to become lost in familiar regret.
When I looked up, farther than the worn and mind-numbing highway dividing lines, I saw it: a breathtaking bow across the sky. It had to be a gift, a sign, some kind of divine apparition that meant I was not alone, that things were destined to change, that my hope had been worthwhile.
I wanted a picture to preserve this memory, this memento, this marker. I rustled through my purse, leaned over to check the glove-box, and then remembered I’d packed the camera in my trunk. I decided to watch for as long as I possibly could, drive underneath and through this arc that stretched from one side of the road to the other, and then stop the car.
I let the heat of the late-evening stream into the car – windows down and sunroof open. For the moment it lasted, I imagined myself enveloped in all that color, light, magic, and promise. Then, as planned, I pulled over, retrieved the camera, and lifted my head to frame the shot.
The sky was blank. Everything was gone. Nothing was there!
It is hard to understand how something so seemingly real and substantial can sometimes be nothing more than an illusion.
On the other side, from that angle, looking back with perspective, the rainbow I’d been
chasing no longer existed. What had I been thinking?
The metaphor isn’t lost on me.
Back at the height of my piano-playing days, I perfected a piece called Fantasie Impromptu by Chopin. In the middle of a start and finish that were fast, complicated, and complex was a beautiful, calming, almost haunting melody. Years later, that tune was extracted out of the larger composition and made popular. It’s name? I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. Of course.
I looked up the lyrics:
Why have I always been a failure? What
can the reason be?
I wonder if the world is toblame.
I wonder if it could be me.
I’m always chasing rainbows,
Watching clouds drifting by.
My schemes are just like all my dreams,
Ending in the sky.
Some fellas look and find the sunshine.
I always look and find the rain.
Some fellas make a winning some time.
I never even make a gain.
I’m always chasing rainbows,
Waiting to find a little bluebird,
The connection between this story and the one above is not lost on me.
Still – and always – I am an optimist through and through. Hope does not leave me. It is relentless. And this gets me into trouble, spells certain disaster, and has broken my heart more times than I can count.
What is the alternative?
I don’t look at either of these stories with a lens of harsh scrutiny – beating myself up for my naiveté in the first or acceding to the inherent pessimism in the second. Instead, I see my patterns – with clarity and courage. Sometimes I can laugh. Often I am called to grieve. And I am certain that I’ll know far more of both – with a better (and wiser) perspective, with ever-increasing strength, and maybe with a camera closer at-hand.
I grew up learning to associate the rainbow with God’s promise to Noah that the earth would never again be destroyed. That telling skipped over one incredibly important part of the promise-fulfilled that I now have the perspective to see and offer, one that is anything but illusion: Noah’s Wife.
Whether read as literal tale or mythic archetype, her symbolism and truth are rife. She suffers through incredible tragedy and impossible-to-fathom loss. And it is on the other side of the rainbow that her flesh and blood births new life; that her legacy enables the future to exist at all. She is hope enfleshed.
As her, so too, you and me. She calls us – her daughters, her lineage, her kin – to see ourselves as the rainbow’s promise fulfilled – life sustained, legacy continued. She calls us – her daughters, her lineage, her kin – to be the visible reminder and sign that destruction never wins, that hope always endures, that beauty and life always triumph. No illusion. Promise, indeed.
“What is the alternative?” Noah’s Wife asks.
I have lots of stories in which I’ve chased rainbows; times in which I thought I was heading toward something miraculous and amazing that turned out to be something far less, even nonexistent. Still, from this side, with perspective, I don’t believe I would change a one of them. For in spite of them all, it is hope and hope and hope that has healed my heart. It is the surviving the storm, the flood, the tragedy, the loss that has brought me blessing untold. It is the chasing of the rainbow that has made life as beautiful as it is.