The Missing Posts: Appreciating Rainbows

This was supposed to be posted 1 June, as it is from June's Farmer's Almanac calendar pages. Yes, the right-hand most column. Here it is:

'In 1627, John Donne, one of the great poets of our language, reflected on the miraculous in the everyday. We experience the world around us, Donne observed, as made up of mundane occurrences that we hardly notice but which, if they were rare, would be accounted prodigies. "Nay, the ordinary things in Nature would be greater miracles than the extraordinary, which we admire most, if they were done but once."

'How many events of a June afternoon bear him out? The sky darkens, thunder sounds, rain arrives, passes. A rainbow appears in the east, a vast shimmering arch of light above the valley. We pause to enjoy it, we don't fail to notice it; but then we go on about our business. We've seen rainbows before. If that rainbow were the only rainbow, if it "were done but once," we would be astonished.

'As the shower passes, a hummingbird returns to the delphiniums, hovering, feeding, zooming off, circling, zooming back, halting, poised on invisible wings. Its movements are so quick that they can be hard to follow, and its brilliant colors make it a look like a high-speed gemstone. As with the rainbow, however, though we admire the hummingbird, we don't marvel: it's familiar. If, as Donne reminds us, this hummingbird were unique, we would behold it with wonder.'

I happen to really love John Donne. He said many great things. This one, however, I disagree with in general. I can't remember the last time I saw a hummingbird. What is doubly ironic and unbelievable to me is that the same day, 30 May, we had a quick thunderstorm that poured on us down by New Road for about 5 minutes, and then just as we returned to the building, there, shining in the sky, was the astonishing: a rainbow! Just the beginning, just the end, no middle section to bridge the huge gap, but a rainbow nonetheless. I did not stop to marvel long; I ran into the house, grabbed my camera and ran back out to the park and took whatever pictures I could get.

And I do marvel and appreciate the every day. Why do you think my blog is called "Living in the World, Not on It"? I don't want to be someone who looks at a rainbow - even if there are twelve each summer - and says, "Oh. Nice." and turns back to my cafe latte and doesn't marvel and find myself in awe when something beautiful is there - and only for a few precious moments at best. That is pitiable.

Even spiders. I am so arachnophobia it is not funny. (Let me rephrase that - I don't think it is funny. Other people do. But people are stupid, sheep, and I shouldn't be surprised at their basic insensitivity to my one and only phobia.) But even though I am terrified of any eight-legged non-insectoid creatures, I do find them fascinating (in that sick sort of "look at the accident in horror but you can't look away" kind). And what they do is amazing! These creatures can kill a man - which is only what, 100,000 times bigger than they? They create gorgeous webs, sometimes over-night, that glimmer and shimmer in the morning dew of summer time. They can keep your home clear of flies, mosquitoes, and other creepy-crawlies. I can't live with them, but I can appreciate their roll in the chain of life. (I'll even force myself to watch nature shows with them in it, although it is really, really hard to do and sometimes I manage it and sometimes not...

I still watch every sunrise and every sunset, and I still go outside at night to marvel at the panoply of stars that blanket the sky, that fill me with joy. I've said my 'goodnight' to Orion, my old friend, who now graces the Southern hemisphere. I've said hello to the summer constellations that have come in to grace the Northern hemisphere. Anytime I am outside at night, I look for the Moon, the stars and, of course, planets.

I still watch the seasons turn and change; the starkness of winter with its ghostly snowflakes and chill air turning into the rains of April and May and the mud that comes with it. The budding of the large, old trees ringing the house until the leaves are nearly the size of my face and the flowers of early, then mid-, then late spring take their turns in two- or three-week increments. And then the heat and moisture of summer and the booming thunderstorms that can bring relief or worsen the humidity. Then the cycle of late summer with the cicadas and crickets offering their nightly symphony through August into October as the leaves slowly give up their rich, green raiment for the brilliant colours of yellow, orange, red, russets, mahogany and browns before back to the starkness of winter... Where my old friend Orion glows straight up and slightly to the east to greet me.

So, unlike John Donne, I do marvel at the everyday things. Each and every day.


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