Beneath the Arc of a Double Rainbow

Ntozake Shange’s “choreopoem” called “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” had part of its origination from an epiphany Shange had when she passed under the arc of a double rainbow one morning and realized that “In that moment of seeing the double rainbow, I felt connected to the delicacy and irrepressible majesty of life.” (Nov. 8, 2010, New Yorker, “Color Vision” by Hilton Als)

My husband Paul had a similar experience kayaking on the lake below our summer cabin in Wisconsin. As he tells the story: “I tumbled out of bed before 5 and noticed the sun arising though a narrow band of clear sky only to have its rays reflected in a thick cloud cover that was moving east. I hustled down to my kayak and paddled directly toward the sunrise. But as I got halfway across the lake, rain started to fall. I looked back and noticed ominous storm clouds moving quickly toward me. Sadly, I turned around and headed back toward the cabin when a magnificent double rainbow appeared before me, with its arc anchored at opposite ends of our bay. And right under the rainbow: our cabin. I was overcome with joy and appreciation for my parents having built this family jewel and then, after their recent deaths, bequeathing it to me. I reflected on how this cabin would provide a place where Lynn and I could spend together the years ahead in the beauty and quiet of nature. What more could I possibly ask of life?”

I have never had such an epiphany under the double arc of a rainbow, but my last blog “Buttercup Hill” describes the miraculous magic of first buttercups to my sisters and me when we were children, which was our yearly rite of spring. As such, we experienced its seeming sudden glorious appearance and, in our own simple ways, paid homage to it.

Randi and I no longer talk much about the miracles of spring, but my sister Krissie–who became a horticulturist–and I do. Just yesterday, we talked about whether snowdrops are better left to enjoy where they sprout up, or whether it’s okay to snip some to put in a little vase and enjoy indoors. (She said it is okay to snip.) She likes to snip this flower and that and arrange them in delicate formations in vases, a sort of fresh art ensemble to enchant the eye. I remember one year she foraged in the countryside for dried wild flowers and vines and set to work making unique Christmas wreaths for our mother and each of her four siblings. I had mine for about ten years. Finally I had to admit my wreath had become woebegone and bedraggled. Reluctantly, I threw mine out.

A neighbor’s invitation arrived in our mailbox yesterday. The card read, STOP BY for WARM PIE AND COFFEE; We hope you will join us for this chance to get together before winter comes and takes us all inside.

This winter I want to keep myself in the arc of a double rainbow; I want to imagine the joys of Buttercup Hill, snowdrops under the earth waiting to come out while I make and enjoy warm pie and coffee.

Headstones

A few years ago when I was taking a walk around the neighborhood in Lawrence, I passed a house advertising its residents. The name PERKINS was engraved on a headstone near the front door, instead of on a mailbox.

I could not believe what I was seeing. I stopped, stood, and stared at the gravestone-looking object, thinking why, why would people who are living use a headstone to list their names as the occupants?

I have walked by that house many times, and when I do, I still get that eerie feeling. In the language of my childhood, “it gives me the heebie jeebies.”

But the other day I was snipping some parsley from our little herb garden in front of the cabin in Wisconsin, and my eyes went to the iron shoehorn from which hangs a rectangular board with two names painted in yellow. “Paul and Lynn,” it says. My husband’s last name has quite a bit to do with shoes, and it, too, is on the mailbox.

I thought to myself, maybe someone walking by connects the dots, laughs, and says just a tad maliciously to her walking partner, “How bourgeois … and they think they’re being so country quaint.”

Chalk Painting on the Sidewalk

Last fall I wrote a blog titled “What’s in a Tidbit.” It was about a neighborhood gathering for an older couple who were leaving their home of 37 years to move into a retirement apartment.

Yesterday I was taking a walk around the neighborhood. As I came up the hill and turned the corner on our block, I passed the house of the people who had hosted the gathering. Knowing they are spending this week in New York City, I thought about where they might be staying: East Side, West Side, Theater District, etc.? I have a penchant for the Upper West Side, so I decided to place them there. I wondered what art exhibits they would be seeing. Having recently scanned the New Yorker art museum listings, I placed one of their outings at the Guggenheim to see “Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance” because I had read that “much contemporary photography and video is haunted by the past, often by its own recent history,” a conception of contemporary photography I have thought true myself.

As I walked past the house of our departed neighbors, my eyes caught a vision chalked on the sidewalk of sky flooded by rainbow, rain, and floating clouds; a few steps over it, a heart, a dancing flower, a starburst. In the myrtle off to the side stood a little bottle-green watering can.

I remember seeing my aging neighbor down on her knees amongst these delicate purple flowers digging away at something, her upper torso rigid, bent over.

Sometime in the past couple of months, a young family has moved into the house my older neighbors moved out of. The old mailbox has been painted an orange-red. The children now own the sidewalk with the drawings from their minds.