Pondering what to pose as this week’s challenge, I woke this morning with the words Storms and Rainbows echoing from the drain of my sleeping mind.
We are in a season of storms: rousing thunder marches across the receptive earth. A raw, breaking-open time. Wildfires in California (conflagrated by excessive heat and lightning) burn with the growing, growling intensity we saw earlier this year in Australia. Smoke from the fires blankets far and wide. Two tropical systems march toward the Gulf of Mexico, where waters are hotter in the new usual; both are predicted to strike Louisiana’s Gulf coast 48 hours apart. Artic sea ice is melting vanishingly fast. Monsoon rains in South Asia have furiously unleashed a new-ordinary. And with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to flatten economies and increase human misery around the world, the Earth at 1 degree C of overall warming mired in the speed-shift of pandemic offers a jarring glimpse of the world as it warms 2 or 3 degrees C more in the next century, just as the poaching of endangered species hastens the demise of the animal kingdom wrought by climate change.
Yet in these folds are also rainbows. Rainbows are an optical phenomena created by the reflections, refraction and diffusion of sunlight off rain droplets, a circular arc centered by the sun and the observer’s eye. (Normally we only see the half of them above the ground.) After the violence of a storm, the shimmer of multi-spectral light feels like a halo of blessing, an augury of the new.
From Wikipedia –
Rainbows occur frequently in mythology, and have been used in the arts. One of the earliest literary occurrences of a rainbow is in the Book of Genesis chapter 9, as part of the flood story of Noah, where it is a sign of God’s covenant to never destroy all life on earth with a global flood again. In Norse mythology, the rainbow bridge Bifröst connects the world of men (Midgard) and the realm of the gods (Asgard). Cuchavira was the god of the rainbow for the Muisca in present-day Colombia and when the regular rains on the Bogotá savanna were over, the people thanked him offering gold, snails and small emeralds. Some forms of Tibetan Buddhism or Dzogchen reference a rainbow body. The Irish leprechaun’s secret hiding place for his pot of gold is usually said to be at the end of the rainbow. This place is appropriately impossible to reach, because the rainbow is an optical effect which cannot be approached.
Rainbows weave through our daily fabric. Life goes on. Children are born. Memorials are tended. As the usurper Macbeth is beheaded in the end, rogue leaders are voted out and the time becomes free. (Many of us will need to repeat this for the next four days of the Republican National Convention.) New shoots green burnt hills. We decide what’s worth rebuilding and look to new and better conventions of living for the entire human community.
The interface of storm and rainbow—of despair and hope—is what interests me here. In the I Ching there is a hexagram for this, Fu (Return), or The Turning Point:
Going out and coming in without error.
Friends come without blame.
To and fro goes the way.
On the seventh day comes return.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.
To and fro goes the way. Linked to the winter solstice, this hexagram speaks of a turning point, where darkness is exhausted and light begins its return.
How to stand at this door and return this light? Rilke suggests the following in his Sonnets to Orpheus:
A god can do it. But will you tell me how
a man can penetrate through the lyre’s strings?
Our mind is split. And at the shadowed crossing
of heart-roads, there is no temple for Apollo.
Song, as you have taught it, is not desire,
not wooing any grace that can be achieved;
song is reality. Simple, for a god.
But when can we be real? When does he pour
the earth, the stars, into us? Young man,
it is not your loving, even if your mouth
was forced wide open by your own voice—learn
to forget that passionate music. It will end.
True singing is a different breath, about
nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.
—I.3, transl. Stephen Mitchell
A wind takes us from an idea of reality into Being. From shelter from the storm into spiral magnificence. From lightning strike to immolated city to a new pact with a burning Earth.
Easy, for a god. But what about us?
Perhaps we have come to the warbling threshold: Are we ready to step through? What does the rainbow bridge to this future look like? It is only an illusion?
All we need is a song. Write about storms and rainbows from whatever vantage seems most appropriate to you.
This challenge will remain open until 4 p.m. EST Friday, August 28, when we’ll roll down the scenery for the next open link weekend.
How did Joyce announce the thunder in Finnegans Wake—
That should get us started!