The Rainbow


I’m seeing  a lot of these.

It is nothing mystical: we have had our fill of rain and sun here. It was bound to happen that the rainbow was a feature of our skies for a while.

Hey, it’s just a spectrum, suspended up there in the great blue beyond. A serendipitous conjunction of reflection, refraction and dispersion.

Did you know they are circular? If you’re in a plane in the sky with a bird’s eye view you can see the whole thing, but we mortals walking on the ground find it hard to see the whole picture. Even the arc we can see  is impossible to capture whole on camera without a wide-angle lens.

Our vision is earthbound and consequently limited.

And you can’t get to them. They’re an optical illusion, and any attempt to run to the foot of the arc and claim the gold is doomed. No amount of vision can bring the rainbow nearer or allow us to stake a claim to it. That’s ephemera for you.

Religion would have us believe they are a promise. An indication from a higher power that something out there is in control and smiling on us.

They do have a habit of appearing at the damnedest times.

Endless, cyclical, unattainable and an emblem of the breathtaking beauty of which this jewelled globe is capable, I believe the rainbow speaks for itself. It needs no man-dreamt construct to explain it. It is a symbol, as Wordsworth said, of the most natural piety.

“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety. “


5 thoughts on “The Rainbow

  1. A few weeks ago I was very lucky to see two, yes two rainbows at the same time one of course was some distance away and the other quite close so that it formed a perfect arch over the smaller perfect arch. It was really fascinating. I’d never seen this before although I suppose it’s quite common

  2. That is a lovely shot – the spectrum has come out particularly well.
    I’ve wished for a wide-angle lens to capture the whole of our occasional double rainbows over the sea – occasionally equally bright – stretching in perfect semicircles. What would beat that would be the same thing mirrored in a glassy stretch of water.

  3. Lovely, Kate: your photo, your words, and Wordsworth’s. 🙂 Once, and only once, I captured the arc way out in the Iowa cornfields. The photos is lovely, but, the emotions and awe felt when I saw it are still but a heartbeat away.

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