Well, so much for the evening walk.
Having spent much of the afternoon behind the wheel of my veteran Honda Civic, I’d decided to stretch my legs with a walk to the woods after doing the evening feeding at the farm.
My drive home from our daughter’s guest house at Raystown Lake, after an overnight stay there, had been through a mix of changing skies. Early morning fog hunkering over the mountains had been burned off by mid-morning sunshine. Blue skies reigned as high, cirrus clouds streaked across the heavens through a cool, almost-fall-like day.
But as I’d crossed the lake and headed east, clusters of dark thunderclouds periodically nosed over the mountains, threatening rain. Fortunately for all of us rolling along that stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the rain never materialized from the heavy, gray clouds that chased along with us. And, when I cleared the end of the Blue Mountain Tunnel, the last subterranean passage eastbound, blue skies and puffy clouds hovered over the picturesque farming valley spread out below.
Once home, and after quickly putting together a fresh tomato sandwich — whole-wheat bread with lots of mayonnaise — I sat down at the kitchen table for a quick bite ahead of barn chores. That’s when I noticed the sheet of gray-black sky looming behind the field of corn just across the road from the front door.
Good grief, I thought. Where had that suddenly come from?
Not long before, I’d dumped 2 inches of water out of the rain gauge, the results of a heavy storm that we knew had clobbered our area the night before. With our ground water levels still not fully recharged around our area, it was a welcome addition, as well as a finishing boost to fatten up the maturing soybeans.
Now, despite its ominous-looking appearance, the gray-black cloud front brought no thunder-and-lightning dramatics and sprinkled us with only a light shower. A few droplets continued to fall as I gave Buddy the calf his bottle, served supper to the cats and hustled one last, dawdling pullet hen into overnight security. There was just one more chore to finish and then I could go for that walk.
The chore involved a fluffy bundle of white and black. We’ve yet to figure out which mother cat had abandoned the small kitten in the basement, or why she’d left it. The kitten is just large enough to toddle around, meowing and hunting for a warm, fuzzy tummy to nuzzle up to and nurse. Donna Cat, whose kittens are now big enough to trot back and forth to the barn, readily let it snuggle up with her, but her milk supplies are likely depleted.
I could never let this kitten just starve, so I was trying to teach it to drink slightly warmed milk from a shallow saucer, while trying to keep the baby from stumbling through it. Success was limited, but I was hoping it was sucking and lapping enough of the milk to help settle the tummy hunger pangs. And, of course, it was necessary to sit and cuddle the kitten a bit afterward.
From the basement lawn chair where I was snuggling the kitten, I happened to glance up toward the stormy sky. And there, arching over the farm, was one of the most beautiful, brilliant rainbows I’ve ever seen.
We see rainbows fairly regularly after late-day rainstorms, always arching over us because of the angle from which the sun sets in relationship to the farm. Against the backdrop of gray sky and the spotlight of the setting sun, this rainbow was almost neon.
Wanting to see the rest of it, I settled the kitten on its soft blanket bed and headed up the road past the giant willow tree in the backyard. While there was no high arch of rainbow visible overhead, the opposite end was equally brilliant, looming over the fading green of the fields and disappearing over the eastern horizon.
To the west, the trailing, scalloped tail of the storm front was edged in glistening shades of orange, set against the blue of the clear sky behind. After the darkness comes not only light, but in this case, a luminous heavenly glow.
With all the darkness in our world (and we’ve always had that in some form or another), rainbows remind us that the beauty and glory of nature will ultimately prevail over the ugliness that claims so much of our attention and time, and too often distracts us from the simple, natural beauty of our world.
Thank God for rainbows.