Vail Valley Voices: Glimpse inside the rainbow
July 17, 2010
I saw a rainbow the other day and thought about my niece Emily. I always think of her when I see a rainbow, ever since she played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” in her senior year.
Rainbows hold a wonderful fascination for us as mysterious marvels of nature. They symbolize the peace and beauty that come after we have weathered a storm, marking the end of the gloom and telling us the sun is shining again.
Rainbows not only represent their literal scientific phenomenon, they also serve as a perfect metaphor for life.
When Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg wrote “Over the Rainbow” for the young, unhappy Dorothy, they chose their symbolism well but couldn’t possibly have known the place it would forever hold in the hearts of generations.
If Louis B. Mayer had his way, Judy Garland never would have sung the song at all. Mayer felt it slowed the movie down and wanted it cut. Arlen and Harburg won, however, and the song became an endearing classic.
In the film, of course, it was perfection. Garland’s performance was so innocent and pure and her voice so clear and true that it is hard not to be moved.
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It spoke to and continues to speak to us because we can all understand the longing to escape life and lose ourselves in that arch of colors we see when the sun shines through the raindrops.
It is an uncomplicated metaphor. In Kansas, life was sepia toned and dull. But over the rainbow in a wondrous, colorful new land, Dorothy found acceptance, friendship, love and a world filled with excitement and terror and in finding all that, was able to learn what was truly important in her in life.
We face scary things all the time, but we also learn that without some risk we can never really be open to all the possibilities in our paths.
At some time in life, we’ve all felt like we don’t belong, we’re not loved or appreciated or we think there is just nothing there for us where we are. We long to find out what else is out there and go in search of our heart’s desire, but rarely do we find lasting contentment and true happiness. It so often seems like it is just ahead or still just over that elusive rainbow.
It is a scientific optical oddity that you can never be inside of a rainbow. Rainbows can only be seen from a distance, looking back on them as it were.
W. J. Humphreys, in his book “The Physics of Air,” also tells us that since the distribution of light and color which comprise a rainbow are referenced from one specific point, no two people ever see exactly the same rainbow because every eye is its own unique reference point.
Life is very similar if you think about it. Most often, we cannot see the rainbows in our life when we are inside of them, living them. It is only later when we look back that we realize we had one, but just couldn’t see it at the time. And that’s sad, really. It also follows that no two people ever see life’s moments in exactly the same way or attribute exactly the same meanings to them.
In short, life just goes so damn fast sometimes that we don’t appreciate what we have when we have it.
I was talking to my lifelong best friend Beth the other day and we recalled how many golden days we have had in our lives with no knowledge whatsoever at the time that they would ever be remembered fondly. Certainly, we never thought they’d be “the good old days” because we were always looking ahead to find our lives instead of living them as they happened. We seemed so unhappy so often only to realize years later how really good we had it then.
Maybe once in a while, we need to remind ourselves to stop, look for and live our rainbows while we have them instead of waiting to look back on them.
Maybe we have to take it upon ourselves to not to let them pass us by unnoticed and unappreciated.
Unlike the real thing, life’s rainbows can always be seen from the inside if you take the time to look for them.
David Dillon is an Eagle resident.