Where The Rainbow Begins

by Maria Theresa Maggi on January 12, 2019

“Where The Rainbow Begins,” pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

On the night of my birthday I wrote:

“Was just relaxing here by the fire with the dogs, listening to the rain on my roof and laughing to myself, thinking, ‘I can’t go to bed until after 10:27 pm because I haven’t been “born” until after that!’ It’s been a full day. Enjoyed the sea lions lounging around on the floating docks made especially for them at Yaquina Bay in Newport.  At the restaurant my neighbor friends took me too, got a vegan, gluten free and ultimately oil free lunch of seasonal veggies on black quinoa, which ended up being delicious, and literally free, courtesy of the Clearwater Restaurant, because the kitchen messed up my order the first time around. Great service. Kind friends who went the extra mile to take me down there. Cotton was an angel sleeping under the table the whole time. Romeo was an angel holding down the fort back home. All in all, an interesting and ultimately tasty adventure out into the wider world.

There’s something prayerful about being born in early January, after the days of celebration are over. Like slipping in with the fog, unnoticed. That mantle of seeming invisibility.

I used to be quite crestfallen as a child that things I wanted to have or do to celebrate my birthday as other kids did in the summer simply were not open or up and running at my time of the year (Vic’s Ice Cream with its amazing ice cream cakes, the castle at Fairy Tale Town in Sacramento).

But now, finally, I have come to appreciate the grace of arriving when everything has slowed to a crawl, the days are short and often gray, the sun low, places shuttered. All of a sudden almost, I am given to see the grace in appreciating this bleak aftermath, incipient with invisible potential and possibility, rich with waiting, gestation, patience—all of which pave the path to inspiration.. Among the best gifts of all is to be able to feel how this time of year wears an unassuming but powerful grace all its own—perfect conditions for a slow miracle Sunday’s child like me. Then, too, there’s the delicately hand knit washcloth made by a dear friend— which is like holding a piece of woven sun in my hands.”

When the same lovely friend who knitted me the washcloth the color of sun turned to me at the restaurant table and said something like, “So, Maria, what have you been up to the last few days?” I drew my customary blank. This question, no matter who asks it, is almost guaranteed to evoke an initial and seemingly complete empty space when it hits my ears.

I want to answer, or I think I want to answer. Sometimes I know it’s going to come in a planned phone call with a long time friend, and I even try to think of things to say beforehand, knowing I will get asked. But when I am actually asked, the first thing that happens is my mind draws that big beautiful blank.

A little gap opens between the recent past and the present, as cognitive slowdown  makes its plodding way along the neurological path that will retrieve the information, thus producing that initial blank spot. But when the images of what I’ve been up to do start to materialize in my mind’s eye some seconds later and I begin to scan what they are, they don’t seem like things anyone else would consider “doing.” And so I am stumped as to what to say. I realized this morning that my literal side gets hung up because what I remember is not so much what I did, but what I noticed.

It turns out the restaurant we went to overlooks those floating docks made for the sea lions in Newport. The one other time I have seen these floating docks, in what must have been astronomical odds, there were absolutely no sea lions on them. But on my birthday the sea lions were there in force, and we were seated at the window directly above them.

I was fascinated by those sea lions, but I had also gamely asked the younger neighbor in our group to finish a complex story from her life she had begun in the car, so I felt bad to be looking away from her to stare at them, but I did it as much as I could politely manage anyway. I watched one sea lion (who reminded me a little of Cotton) in his efforts to procure a space at the corner of one of the docks. It’s not easy to be second banana, or twentieth banana, for that matter. He kept not quite making it in terms of the others allowing him enough space. The next time I looked, he seemed to be performing for his right to space, turning a somersault in the water. The next time I looked he was up on his desired corner of the platform, quite pleased to be there, as if his performance had someone earned him the spot.

"Sea Lion Dock in Yaquina Bay," pen and ink memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Sea Lion Dock in Yaquina Bay,” pen and ink memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

It was at this point that I realized one of my friends was asking me what I’d been up to the last few days. I felt guilty that I’d rather stare out at the sea lions than try to paddle into the blank and then answer the question, but I gave it a go. The most notable experience that came into view in my mind went something like the following story.

The day before my birthday the dogs and I set out in some light but steady rain for our morning walk. By the time we had taken a long way around to the cabana, the sky over the ocean was starting to clear. I said to them, well, maybe we’ll get to air dry a little on the way home–and maybe we’ll see a rainbow! Just seconds after that I turned to look out onto the water and saw  what I have tried to recreate in the sketch above–not only a rainbow appearing, but one appearing quite close to us, seemingly arising right out of the water not far from shore. It was magnificent.

It flickered in and out of view at first and then really came on, so much so that since no one else but me and the dogs were right there to see it, I sang it a bit of a song, one from a musical my Mom’s choir had done 50 years ago. I could only remember this snippet: “oh what a beautiful sight! The rainbow overhead, violet, indigo, blue and green, all the colors that lie between–violet, indigo, blue and green, yellow, orange and red.” (When I drafted this post, I got curious to see  if I could find a video of a choir singing the song by typing in this snippet and, lo and behold, here’s one from 2012, doing just that.)

In a few minutes another neighbor pulled up in his car and came to stand on the bluff. He had seen the rainbow from his car and decided to come see where it originated. We both had never seen it rise up out of the water the way it was doing.

Later that night right before I went to bed I tried to draw what it felt like to see the beginning of that rainbow.

But back at my birthday lunch out, sitting in the restaurant, I couldn’t have articulated any of this. Nor could I gather my thoughts deftly enough  to parse out a summary that, to be honest, would basically go something like, “I sang to a rainbow and then I tried to draw it later.” Though  it was probably the most accurate kind of answer I could have given, the notion of it just sounded too weird to say out loud. Or maybe too private. So I said I had been taking walks and doing a little drawing.

Perhaps this isn’t fair to my friends. But I don’t think I can help it.  It just doesn’t often come clear in the time allotted during a conversation. It’s more doable in writing and most doable in art. Each allows me to report from behind the shimmery veil of the memory, assembling at a bits-and-pieces pace, and not have to negotiate the immediate responses of anyone else. This is why I often even wish to myself when someone asks me how I’m doing or what I’ve been up to that I could just say to go read my blog, and not have it be considered impertinent or rude or self-serving. It’s the first place a lot of important things I experience, make, or realize get play. Often before I speak them out loud, even to someone I trust and love, I work hard to make sense of them here.

And so, in that spirit, I leave here another treasured something I haven’t said out loud to anyone else.  The highlight of last night was not what I did (struggle with an earlier draft of this post), but what I noticed when I let the dogs out around 9:30. When I opened the front door and then the fence gate, I noticed it was several degrees warmer than it had been at around the same time the previous night. I noticed that I could hear frogs chirping in the culvert. It was warm enough and dry enough and still enough in that moment to stand there on my front porch and make sure that’s what I was hearing and to relish the sound, so early in the year. Another ephemeral beginning. When I opened the door again several minutes later to let the dogs back in, all was quiet. They had gone to sleep.

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole O'Shea January 13, 2019 at 9:24 am

Oh Maria! I totally understand. I feel so similarly most days. I always feels like it’s not what I did, but what I experienced that counts, and some experiences are hard to have a chat about.

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2 Maria Theresa Maggi January 13, 2019 at 9:46 am

Thank you so much, my dear Nicole! I love that you understand. Perhaps it’s in part a artist/creative kind of thing? xoxo

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3 Gloria January 13, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Happy Belated Birthday. I laughed out loud when you described watching the sea lions while attempting to listen to your friends story. That would be me also. I like people, and enjoy being around people….but, sometimes, actually more often all the time, it can be difficult. I feel bad for wanting to be by myself so much, just so that I can look…and hear. So happy to be retired.

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4 Maria Theresa Maggi January 13, 2019 at 7:09 pm

Thanks so much, Gloria! I laughed out loud that YOU laughed out loud! And I so appreciate your own need to be by yourself, as you put it, “to see and hear,” despite genuinely liking people. May you have lots of time seeing and hearing to your heart’s content!

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5 Peggy Bean January 13, 2019 at 5:13 pm

My birthday is 1/9/19. Well, actually 1/9/47 . I really identify with everything you said about early January birthdays.

Also, I have a very similar response when asked what I’ve been up to. Now it’s clearer to me why.

Thanks so much for your beautiful blog, Maria. Many blessings and blessed be!💜💜💜

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6 Maria Theresa Maggi January 13, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Peggy! How lovely to know our birthdays are just one day apart! I’m so happy you can relate to my reflection on early January birthdays. And thank you for letting me know you have a similar response to being asked how you are doing. Means a lot to me–blessings back to you my dear. <3

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