After the death of Ray McNeill, I scavenged a phone number for a woman who roomed in my freshman college dorm and phoned her. We hadn’t seen each other in years. She called me, years ago, after a mutual friend died unexpectedly from heart failure. Our conversation has no real point, no precise question I want answered. We agree we didn’t like each other, years ago, but can’t remember why. What was the contention and why did it matter so much?

Four degrees this morning. I’ve experienced forty below zero, but, good lord, four degrees is not compatible with prolonged human exposure. I carry the stove ashes out and stand for a moment, a few snowflakes drifting down from the darkness, illuminated in my kitchen window’s electric light. Below me in the valley, the scattered lights of the village glow: power still on here. All night, wind threw handfuls of icy snow at our windows. I lay awake listening and reading, my cat curled on my bed, wary of my visiting brother’s dog.

My youngest and I, as the initial rain set in, discovered a rainbow over the village. A fortuitous sign? All depends on how you read that, which way luck will run.

The Rainbow

This afternoon, driving out of Stowe, I hit a rainstorm so tumultuous I turned onto a side road just over the Morrisville line.  I pulled over on the shoulder, shut off the engine and lights, and simply sat there, the window still cranked open enough to throw bits of rain and wind across my face.  I had been inside all day, and I sat there listening to the rain pinging on the truck’s metal roof.

Without deliberating, I got out of the truck and walked down the road. Traffic whooshed by wetly on route 100, but no one appeared on this side road.  I was immediately drenched, within just moments, the rain running over my lips and into my mouth.  I hadn’t gone far when suddenly I stepped from pouring rain to sun.  I spanned the line of storm with my outstretched arms.  I did what anyone would have done:  I looked for a rainbow, but I didn’t find it until I was driving further down the highway, and there the rainbow was, hung over the village.  I passed beyond the village and then along the lovely stretch of road through tiny Elmore and around the lake, where the rainbow, in vibrant colors, spanned the cornfields.  I hadn’t seen a rainbow since the rogue January one my daughter and I discovered, and, driving today, I marveled at the rainbow’s sheer size, spread from hill to hill, and the intensity of its colors, neatly ordered, smoothly arched, infinitely beautiful.

And then my road home turned around the mountain, and the rainbow was gone.

On my drive, I had been listening to Walden, and when I stepped out of the truck, perhaps I was intending merely to shake my day’s labors from my woolly head, or to drop a problem that had been worrying and gnawing at me, chewing my thoughts irritatingly, all through that drive, my day, my listening, even, to Thoreau.  The rainbow, my brief companion, stretched over all of us in the corners of those towns nestled together, a skyward gem for all.

The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.