You Really Had to Be There — but you weren’t — but ten people were! This Post #1 didn’t make the initial brainstorming list, but jumped to #1 when I remembered the most spectacular inanimate vision of my existence.
We were in the IBM corporate jet, bringing executives from the newly established Staples organization, circa 1985, over snow-covered Minnesota flatlands, when someone (maybe me) asked the pilot, “What’s that?,” pointing to a perfect circular apparition of seven concentric giant life-savers in diminishing sizes, at a distance off one side of the plane. The pilot replied (paraphrasing), “That is a real rainbow. We usually see only its partial arc.”
The vision may have lasted three seconds, or five, or thirty, or fifty — but it is in front of me now, all distinct and vibrant colors, red to orange to yellow to green to blue to indigo (most people forget indigo!) to violet (aka purple). Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic said “We only see shadows.” For the most part, with rainbows, we only see arcs.
This image emerged with compelling drama in 1986, when I was asked to write transitional words for a musical variety show in my parish. The title was “A Rainbow Connection,” with six scenes, one for each rainbow color (orphaning indigo), with appropriate songs and costuming. I asked if I could write the transitions in verse. The director was a strict high school music director, intent on perfection, but I had gotten her confidence in the previous year’s show, when I had written lyrics for transitions and she had provided music. When I brought her the first draft, she was tearing up by the second verse, when a Mystic describes the Rainbow: “Can you see invisible angels, painting God’s shadow in the sky?”
Flash forward twenty years — I have been “liberated” from the industrial high-tech world (aka “retired,” not entirely voluntary) and offsprings’ tuitions (except for unending re-mortgage payments), I have learned about publishing “chapbooks” from local poetry venues, and I encounter a local 73-year-old watercolorist, Mary T. Bodio, at a coffee shop I am frequenting to help keep it open. (It closed three weeks after I met Mary.) Mary and her friend chatted non-breathing for an hour, but at the first pause I asked Mary if she would read my verse. She agreed, she liked the story, and in four months we had the first edition of A Rainbow Journey in print.
Mary painted her version of “angels painting God’s shadow in the sky” six times, but still something didn’t track to the vision, until I remembered — above the clouds! No obstruction! The seventh version of the full circle rainbow is not part of the verse, but is printed on the last page. At first I labeled the painting “This is a full-circle rainbow,” but my daughter and a friend said the caption ruined the image, so the explanation is in the acknowledgments section of the book.
The verse is an eight-minute read, so it doesn’t play in short open mike readings, but when I do have the opportunity, I always ask has anybody seen a rainbow, and the response is unanimous. When I follow with — “an entire rainbow?”, I hear, “Yes, from horizon to horizon,” or “A double rainbow.” When I show the full circle picture, most are astounded. About fifteen people I have asked have seen the full rainbow — four in one session on Cape Cod last year, but usually one at a time. One woman in Columbia, Maryland, had seen the rainbow on land, from a high mountain precipice. The other witnesses were all airborne, one a Staples high tech assistant on landing in Japan; a few subsequent to reading A Rainbow Journey on landing in San Francisco, including my friend Maureen, who then saw the airplane’s shadow pass through the rainbow. Mary Bodio’s granddaughter reported she saw the plane pass through the rainbow on a trip to Europe; I think she also meant the plane’s shadow.
For the record, A Rainbow Journey is a forty-eight quatrain, rhyming metaphor for a journey through life; a giant Hallmark-like card expressing appreciation for a special relative, mentor, or friend; a coffee-table book; and a tribute to “The Greatest Generation.” And yes, I am practicing shameless self-promotion — http://www.createspace.com/900000970 or a longer .url (and discount) on amazon.com. I end this post with a (or an) haiku:
Some people can’t see
the invisible angels
But some people can