Celebrating Rainbows

The Beach Today


I can appreciate the awe that must have been felt before the scientific reason behind why rainbows happen was understood: Suddenly on a dark wet day beams of light are projected upon the screen of sky: what magical trickery is this!

I tried to take a photo of the whole arc, it stretched from one side of the beach to the other, a complete double arch, but I couldn’t get far enough back to fit it all into my camera screen. This was a shame because I wanted to send the picture of the arch to a friend. A very good friend of mine loves ‘open doorways’. They are deeply symbolic for her, a sign of hope and new beginnings, and when I saw the rainbow, I thought it would make a perfect doorway picture for her; not just an archway, but a rainbow one, steeped in so many different cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs.

Did you know?

How many rainbow beliefs do you already know? We have Judy Garland’s song of hope to start us off, the implicit promise of better things to come. We have the Irish promise of treasure at the rainbows end if we can get past its guardians, the trickster leprechauns!

Rather than seeing it as an arch, many see it as a bridge or a path. It is imagined to be a multi-coloured ladder to another world…. Hawaii identifies closely with rainbows (It is the symbol on their car licence plates – a good pub quiz answer for you!) and in their folklore, the rainbow acts as the celestial road by which the Hawaiian gods come down to earth; it also acts as the pathway for souls of the dead to travel to the heavenly realms. Roman culture believed Mercury; the messenger god travelled on the backs of rainbows. In Norse tradition, only fallen warriors, royalty, or gods could cross the rainbow bridge. More recently, rainbows come to symbolise disparate communities and cultures united: One bridge, many colours.

We will all see a rainbow in our own way. As they are made of light, in all essence they are optical illusions, elusive and unattainable (unless you are a Roman god maybe…) and the rainbow will look different to every individual, depending on where you are standing in relation to the rain and sunlight – they are personal messages. I think that is what makes them special and something to look out for – and if you do spy one, stop what you are doing and take a moment to reflect on its beauty, which only you can see in the exact image you are seeing it! A personalised gift from nature, how wonderful is that!

Double rainbows are even more special – two for the price of one! They are created when the sun is reflected twice in the same raindrop. If you look closely, you will see that the order of the colours in the second wider and more subtle bow is reversed. So instead of the usual red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, it starts on its upper edge with the violet.

Reflective Moment

Even knowing the science behind the magic however, it is still awesome: That when something (light) is broken and fractured it shines more beautifully than before. It is not until the whole is split, that we see the full spectrum of colour – there in the sky before us is a good focus for today’s reflection. What do rainbows mean to you?

Whatever the truth behind the meaning of rainbows, nobody can deny the mystic beauty that surrounds them and the sense of well-being, happiness, surprise, and joy that bubbles up on seeing one – something to make you feel special and to be thankful for.

The Sound of the Sea Today

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud”

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an American civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ and her numerous poetry and essay collections.

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