Beyond the Rainbow

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Post-flood, in Genesis 9:11, a rainbow was characterized as symbolizing “the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature upon the earth.”

Frederick Buechner was far better situated than I to take liberties with Noah, the original “old sailor” who was “an expert in hoping against hope,” and wrote that “[i]n one way . . . it gave Noah a nice warm feeling to see the rainbow up there, but in another way it gave him an uneasy twinge.”  It occurred to him that God had a lot on his mind, and the very fact of him needing a symbolic such reminder might mean the promise could be forgotten.

Noah forged ahead once the floodwaters receded, but his thoughts of building and of seeding the vineyards were shaded by fear born of intrusive thoughts of the past: “He remembered the animals he’d had to leave behind–“the old sow with her flaxen lashes squealing on top of a hen house as the ripples lapped at her trotters, . . . a marmalade cat with one ragged ear . . . ”

When a dove first returned to the ark once the deluge had stopped, Noah had “reached out over the rail and it had landed on the calluses of his upturned palm.  With his eyes closed and tears on his cheeks, he had touched his lips to its feathers, and as he felt the panic of its bird’s heart, it had seemed to him that the whole world was just as fragile and as doomed.”

It took weeks of dove forays, the sight of a “great glittering rainbow arched above him,” and the echo of God’s promise in his ears to persuade Buechner’s Noah that the promise would be kept–that “a new, green world would blossom up out of the sodden wreckage of the old.”

I’m no Noah.

After weeks, months and now years after my husband’s death I still see that fearsome fragility and often sense impending doom.  Great swaths of our old life have been wiped away.

We occupy a new home.  It is a strange and fraught sensation when we peek into our old life, before those storms, and revisit the same spaces my children and I shared with my husband, as we did last weekend with in-laws whom we would visit nearly every July 4th. We drove in a car I bought myself (for the first time in my adult life) to my sister-in-law’s house and my brother-in-law navigated a boat Jim had never seen through a recently cleared rocky culvert onto the same mountain-surrounded lake in which my husband and children swam only six days after learning of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.

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Simultaneously I could see far more than a ghost, the outline of my husband’s left shoulder and side profile as he laughed with his youngest sister just before diving into the water, and the far-less-corporeal image of my terrified self from the same day, reflected in my sister-in-law’s window, quietly crying until another sister-in-law gently touched my arm and asked if I wanted to go for a walk with her.

Today the essence and height of my few remaining fears is of revisiting the wreckage and devastation and again occupying the darkness full-time.  My fear corresponds with this initial post-flood incarnation of Noah: maybe the worst is yet to come, perhaps I can’t trust the dollops of color and hope that have been sprinkled in our paths.

I’ve taken of late to compiling daily rainbows, often literal “blossom[s] up out of the sodden wreckage” of a devastating winter.  Sometimes they make themselves known in bits and pieces–petals and seashells and curls of sparkling seaweed.  Every now and then the rainbow arrives fully assembled in a trick of light, a flower bed, or a chirping visitor.

Our new life, however tenuous its parts may be, hands me sudden blooms of sharp color, and has landed me within distance of spectacular rainbows.

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About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like evidentiary issues, jury instructions, expert witnesses, and forensic evidence. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2016 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
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15 Responses to Beyond the Rainbow

  1. Swav says:

    Do you know the name of second flower above, the orange one ?:) Cheers from Ireland

  2. I loved this symbolic post Stephanie both beautiful and melancholy. At first glance of your vividly colored bird, it appeared as if he/she was wrapped up tightly in a bright colored shawl or blanket rather than its own brilliant plumage. A symbol of something from my past perhaps? Keep looking for those glimpses of color and in time your rainbow will appear even closer than ever before.

    • Stephanie says:

      Thank you, Kathy! I shall keep looking, and I’m tickled by the image of a bird bundled in a blanket….I noticed that in the first year of so the world (and most of my pictures if it) seemed shorn of color. There must be something to being able to start seeing it again.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Scilla is right, and it’s particularly shameful for me to have left out the tiger part when that was our college mascot!

  4. scillagrace says:

    Beautiful flowers, vibrant colors. Sorry about the fear, doom and dread. PTSD hangs around a while. Accepting ‘this’, letting go of ‘that’, reaching more deeply toward the place where they are one and the same in essence is a long journey. The rainbow is a great symbol: all is one white light, separating the colors is a diversion.

  5. Pingback: Old Volcano | litadoolan

  6. Kashpals says:

    Beautiful photos. I love the vivid colored bird and your last line “Our new life, however tenuous its parts may be, hands me sudden blooms of sharp color, and has landed me within distance of spectacular rainbows.” 🙂

  7. Marie Keates says:

    Beautiful imagery Stephanie. When the big things go wrong it’s the little things that keep us going. We just have to look for them.

  8. Pingback: birth |100 Emotions (a sketching challenge) | Ramisa the Authoress

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