The man was looking up and snapping something with his cell phone. I looked up too, coming out of Family Fare with two bags full, and smiled: an exquisite rainbow.
It was remarkably distinct, fully spanning the eastern sky from north to south. Others were looking up now as I walked toward the car. It could have been a spaceship landing, the way they were craning their necks. I snapped a couple of my own, knowing how inadequately the pictures would represent this everyday miracle.
Suddenly everything seemed extra vivid, quickened, almost cinematic. I got in the car and punched on the radio. WGVU-FM was playing a jazz-jam version of “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane, with McCoy Tyner on piano. They turned the tune into a meandering journey as I turned left onto Lake Michigan Drive, the lyrics faintly echoing from my childhood memory:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/ Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens/ Brown paper packages tied up with strings/ These are a few of my favorite things…
Driving east, I was headed straight toward the magnificent rainbow. It looked like I could drive right under it, as if it were the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Maybe I could. I kept driving toward downtown, driven by the tumbling Coltrane jam, pulled by the splendid prism.
In the book of Genesis, God sets a rainbow in the clouds as a covenant between himself and Noah, all his descendants and the earth for all time. No more floods destroying everything, ever again. “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant,” God tells Noah.
So, we like rainbows. They impart hope, beauty, wonder. You never know when they’ll come, and when they do they remind you how beautiful the world is. Born out of the blue quite suddenly, and then gone. They are one of the few things that still make us gasp with delight.
One of our favorite things: God splashing a paint brush across the sky.
I kept pursuing the perfect arch, straight east now, the J.W. Marriott breaking the skyline right in front of me. Coltrane’s sax played crazily like a man running up and down hills. The rainbow was almost straight overhead, but it was fading into the clouds. Its northern arc glimmered a moment longer, then it too was gone.
I turned around and drove home, at peace. I had glimpsed glory for all of 10 minutes. That’s more than you can ask for, most days.