Ever seen a double rainbow?
There are some days when my emotions defy easy explanation. I am tongue-tied, overwhelmed with joy, and moved to silence. These past couple of days have been like that for me. I have been inundated with email from friends who received a photo I recently sent out of myself and my children – friends who have marveled along with me at how much the children have grown. I have received many positive and encouraging comments in response to what I have shared in this, My Life’s Journey. Many friends have called, written, sent notes, and even one six-page letter; I am loved and remembered and so well-thought of in places near and far. There are no words to express how uplifted I have felt of late. Hence my silence.
And in the midst of it all, there are moments of great joy, simple abundance, and even bliss. The best gifts, a friend recently pointed out, are the ones that are made by hand and offered from the heart. I think the same is true of the best moments in life: simple, spontaneous, love-struck. Playing cards with the kids and watching them roll with laughter when I lose so badly that it takes a few seconds before I even realize the game has ended. Watching them play hide and seek with our hamster; only my two children could figure out a way to play a game with a hamster. I’m pretty sure Buddy isn't even aware that he’s part of the game, but he manages to win most of the time anyway. I went to Michael’s the other night to make use of a gift card I received for my birthday and discovered, to my utter delight, that my favorite journaling and doodling pens were on sale at half price. One day last week, I had lengthy and laughter-filled conversations with three of my best friends. Three good buddies filled my ears and my heart with love and laughter and great stories of the road on the same day – what a blessing. I have discovered recipes for my favorite Starbucks beverages online and have made them right here at home. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always been and always will be addicted to the atmosphere at Starbucks – with those cute little tables, the pithy sentiments on the oddly shaped wall hangings, the secret writers like myself who call ourselves tormented and starving artists while nursing beverages that cost more than many people around the world make in a month, and the computer geeks who never look up from the mesmerizing blue screens of their fancy laptops. But at least now I can whip up personalized versions of my favorite drinks on those days when I just don’t feel like paying $4.50 for a cup of coffee. Yesterday I took homemade sweet potato-black bean-barley soup to my neighbor who has two sons that are one year and two weeks apart in age. Ryan was born in late November of 2003, and Evan was born on December 13th of 2004. She has her hands and her heart full. The love that she has for her two young sons far outshines the exhaustion I know she must feel having two little fellows who demand so much of her time and attention. When she regaled me with thanks for saving one evening's frantic dinner preparation, I reminded her that making soup is a far simpler process than bringing up two babies in a row. I have taken a few days off from dusting, mopping, laundry, and even blogging in order to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had here in Charlotte. It’s practically impossible even for me, an unrepentant indoor addict, to stay indoors on 70 degree January days; this is odd even for Charlotte. Some of our recently planted tulips and age-old Bradford pear trees are budding. The sad news is that sub-freezing temperatures will return in the next few days.
After the passing of Suzanne’s son last week, I spent a lot of time thinking about how life feels a lot like tulips that bloom too soon and suffer a premature death. I also reminded myself of the many times that I have missed opportunities to have fun, to laugh, and to take life lightly. I tend to think about things too seriously, to make everything into something deep, and sometimes I forget that life is funny. Life is meant to be enjoyed and not endured. Life is meant to be cherished; after all, it is a series of miracles one after the other.
I recalled one particularly humiliating but funny incident during my first year of work after college when I was a member of the admissions staff at Williams College in Massachusetts. One day I came out of the bathroom and was making my way downstairs to meet a student for an interview. After I passed a couple of colleagues talking in the hallway, they both burst into boisterous laughter. Like every paranoid new person on every job, I knew instantly it had something to do with me. I turned around to see what all the fuss was about and discovered several sheets of toilet paper trailing out of the back of my waistline. Oops!
I remembered the time in junior high school when I came out of gym, got dressed for my afternoon classes, and walked from the locker room to the dining hall for lunch. I ran into one of my gym teachers at the front of the lunch room and we began to chat. I noticed that he kept looking down at the front of my shirt. I’m no buxom babe, so I knew it wasn’t a case of him talking to “them” and not to me. After enduring several of his downward glances, I looked down to see what all the fuss was about. Somehow my shirt had come unbuttoned all the way down to my waist! How did I not notice the draught? What had all the other people thought as I made my way from one end of the school to the other showing off my rather flat chest? Oops!
Then there was the glorious evening last year when my daughter and I saw a double rainbow. The full length of both rainbows were visible in the Charlotte sky for nearly half an hour. I opened my car window and shouted out to anyone within the sound of my voice to look up and see it. I pointed up to the sky for the entire time I was in the car that afternoon. What a sight! I had never seen anything like it before and didn’t think I ever would again. So when I saw another double rainbow in Bologna, Italy a few months later, I knew I was witness to a second double miracle. I didn’t shout anything out loud on the quiet, damp streets that September afternoon. I snuck into the local church that seemed to be miraculously located at one end of the rainbow, sat down on a back pew, and wept. I’ll never forget that moment: me, alone, in Italy, a double rainbow, and the sounds of mass being said in Italian.
Yes, the tsunami victims are still digging out in Asia. The flood waters are receding some in Ohio, but the mud is still sliding in California. Families are displaced and hungry in Darfur. War rages in Iraq. And yet on the edges of so many frayed lives are strands of joy. After the overwhelming waves of sorrow pass, there are ripples of laughter that are beginning to appear again. After hours of excruciating pain, devastation, and sleeplessness, there are moments of what Ian calls “exquisite grace.” I hope and pray that I never forget that in spite of all the horror, this is still a world where double rainbows are possible at any moment.