The Bible says that God sent a rainbow to Noah as a promise that he would never again destroy the Earth with a flood. (Genesis 9:13–17) The weather this summer has me thinking that God is rethinking that promise. The rains of late spring/early summer 2019 have indeed felt biblical. My suburban backyard has a substantial new pond in the corner of the lot off and on, serving as a reflecting pool for my statue of the Blessed Virgin. It actually looks rather pretty, with the BVM’s reflection shimmering in the water. The moss that has formed on my back steps, not so much. Sitting on my back porch, the landscaping around it feels like a rain forest, with leafy branches pressing into the screens and the air thick with humidity.
Out in the country, farmers are planting late, if at all, afraid that either their equipment will get stuck in the mud or their seeds will be swept away in another gulley washer.
One happy byproduct of all this rain is the occasional rainbow. Is there anything more wonderous? From my perch on the hilltop at our farm, I will often see rainbows form in the streaming sunshine after or during a light rain. If we have a house full of people, everyone will stop what they’re doing and rush outside to take in this natural spectacle. In the mist of sun/rain, it will appear like an apparition, a mirage, faintly at first. You may rub your eyes, unsure of what you’re looking at. Then, as the sun breaks through the rain droplets, there it is: a prism of color, red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, violet. In this day of jaded perspectives on just about everything, I find it so refreshing that we all can agree that a rainbow is awe inspiring.
Whenever I see a rainbow forming in the mist, I think of my sweet, recently departed mother-in-law. She used to say, offhandedly, “The Devil’s beating his wife” whenever she saw the sun come out when it was raining. She spoke it in a sweet Texan drawl, casually, as if to say, “That darned rascal.” What a strange saying. It always made me think, “Hold on. The Devil has a wife?!” Talk about tough duty. Also, who would marry that guy? Some poor gal who really couldn’t stand cold winters, I’m guessing, bought into the Devil’s promises, “Girl, I’ll take you to a place where it literally never gets cold. It’s hot, hot, hot!”
Speaking of rain, I’ve been humming this ditty lately: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day. Baby wants to go and play. Come again another day.” It was clearly written by a stir-crazy mother with young children. Yes, Baby does want to play outside. But have you ever been stuck inside with small preschool children when the weather is lousy? Mommy clearly wants to get the hell out of the house, too. She might even date the devil after a few days of being a shut-in.
I’ve also been haunted this classic ear worm: “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man in snoring. He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t wake up in the morning.” So, what happened there? Was the old man a drunk? Did he die, or was he just hung over, not able to wake up? Or was he snoring, his wife couldn’t stand it anymore and bopped him on the head? (I can relate to that.) Whatever happened, my hunch is The Old Man had it coming.
But back to rainbows. The Double Rainbow Guy from several years ago was a constant source of amusement for my household when my kids were little. Remember him? He was famous on YouTube for his jubilant, over-the-top, emotional response to finding not one, but two rainbows in the sky. Pretty sure there was some drug use involved. But who could really blame him for his excitement? I mean, one rainbow is very cool. Two? It’s like winning the rainbow lottery. “Double rainbow all the way … so intense …” I love Double Rainbow Guy.
We humans have long celebrated rainbows. Their distant, ethereal, unattainable beauty inspires us all to dream, reach, strive, seek pots of gold and hang out with leprechauns … Finnian’s Rainbow: “Look, look, look to the rainbow … Follow the fellow who follows a dream.” The Rainbow Connection: “Someday we’ll find it, The Rainbow Connection … the lovers, the dreamers and me.” Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow: “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I’ve dreamed of, once in a lullaby.” And the morose flipside of that song, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, “watching clouds go drifting by. My schemes are just like all my dream, ending in the sky.” There’s something about that supernatural magnificence that pulls at our souls, bringing out an everlasting yearning.
Long ago, my husband and I attended a gorgeous wedding in Ireland, where rainbows live 24/7. The party favors were umbrellas decorated with the saying “Unto every life, a little rain must fall,” which I thought was beautiful and poignant saying, albeit a strange one for a wedding. Turns out it was rather prophetic, as that the bride left the marriage a few years later and the rain fell hard. The groom eventually remarried a wonderful woman and found happiness and lasting love, though. Which just goes to show you, behind every rain cloud, there indeed can be a rainbow.