It was one of those summer late afternoons that are as sweet and rich as a rose in full bloom. The iron heat and glare of a few hours earlier had given way to a more gentle warmth, the slanting late afternoon sun brought every color to a glowing intensity that was tinged with gold. Green tree, red plastic roadside sign, they were all equally beautiful — their very existence was proof of the magic that underlies this world. The towering summer clouds were ethereal castles floating above us, swirls of ivory and amethyst in a sky so blue it shook. In the distance rain fell from several of them in purple streaks.
My son and I were driving down a rural coastal highway.
“Look at the light and color and sky,” I said. “The only thing that would make this moment more perfect would be a rainbow, but that’s being greedy, I suppose.”
“Look,” he said quietly, pointing just behind my head.
I craned around over the steering wheel and there it was — the rainbow — a double rainbow. Abundance, when it appears, is an awesome thing.
We drove a few miles further, in and out of one of the intense local showers. Just as the sun reappeared, we came to a road that goes out into a salt marsh and dead ends at the ocean. I drove out there whenever I could. You never knew what it had to share. Some days wading birds fed in the creeks, once on a storm high tide a porpoise chased fish up onto the marsh grass, sometimes there was just the open expanse of marsh and sea and sky. I slowed down and hit the turn signal.
“Why are we going here, I thought you were in a hurry to get home?” my son asked.
“Look at the sky, maybe there’ll be another rainbow,” I answered, not really believing it or even wanting anything more than we had. I just wanted to do it and couldn’t resist the temptation to mess with his young mind a bit.
We turned, drove past the point where the wall of trees abruptly stopped and out into the vast sea of marsh grass and glittering salt water. I slowed down to about fifteen or twenty miles per hour and we drifted toward the open Gulf of Mexico at the end of the road.
“Aha, look,” I announced triumphantly. In a creek the biggest mixed flock of American egrets, golden footed snowy egrets, great blue herons and wood storks I had ever seen were intent on a school of killifish. There must have been hundreds of birds in that one flock. As we slowly passed, some swirled up into the air while others held their intense hunters’ mind focus on the life giving water at their feet.
I knew we needed to drive out there and here was the reason why — to see the birds. We went on to the end of the road and turned around, totally happy. And as we turned back, there it was — the second rainbow. It was huge, it stretched across half the sky, the colors intensifying as we watched.
“Look, mom, you were right.” My son looked at me with a slightly awed respect that children almost never have for parents and wouldn’t ever confess to if they did.
I was speechless. Was something going down here? This was beginning to feel a little weird.
“How ’bout that,” I finally managed, as though I’d really pulled it off. “And we get to see the birds again too on the way back.”
We drove back up the road in the glowing color and light, a little faster than we’d been going. As we passed the birds the entire flock took wing and in the rear view mirror they were framed in the rainbow.
“Oh, my god, look at that,” I exclaimed, swerving off the road and hitting the brakes.
We jumped out and stared, now truly awestruck. Hundreds of brilliant white birds swirled above the green marsh, against the deep blue sky, completely encircled by a rainbow. They hung and circled and rose and fell, all in the rainbow. It seemed to last forever.
“Never, never forget this moment as long as you live. When everything is going wrong, just remember this,” I said as they slowly settled back to the ground.
He just shook his head. We drove on back to the highway and headed home, the rainbow still overhead.
And at home, waiting in the mail, was a bill. Not just any bill but one that said “Florida Individual and Joint Intangible Tax Return.” They wanted $48 as a tax on my intangible assets. How they managed to deliver it at that moment, I’ll never know. These tax collectors must be good at their work, I mean REALLY good! But it was worth a lot more than $48.