The Trickery of Beauty
If you’ve never been in a rain storm in Arizona, it can be quite intense for a short period of time, and then out of nowhere, the clouds will vanish and the sun will return, like nothing ever happened. It’s almost as if someone hit the reset button, right as the storm started to peak.
I was in Tucson recently for one of these storms, so I took shelter. Afterward, I went for a walk by a pond, over a bridge. And as I crossed over the bridge, I noticed in the sky the stretchiest, most pot-of-gold looking rainbow I had ever seen in my life.
No one else was around.
I’ve seen rainbows before. When I was a kid, my mom used to call for my attention in a punchy but hushed voice every time she saw one (“look Zia!! A rainbow!”) In DC, I’ll sometimes catch a small one as I gaze out of the train window on the way home.
But this? This was the type of rainbow that framed the sky.
I immediately felt the need to take a picture with my phone. The first place I sent the photo was not Instagram, but to my wife, who was taking a walk in a different part of the same area. I expected a “wow” reply, but got this:
It hadn’t even occurred to me that she would be looking at the same rainbow from where she was. The rainbow, and its beauty, was so personal to me in that moment without anyone else around, I forgot how the sky works.
I need to remember this: beauty can be a source of trickery. It can make you feel like an experience is personal when it’s actually shared. We experience this every time we listen to a great record on a nice pair of headphones. It feels like it’s meant for us, like we’re the only ones listening… but there are copies of that same music streaming in other people’s headphones as well. Maybe even on the same train.
And it’s beautiful, in some ways. Maybe it’s disappointing to know that what was once considered to be a personal experience is actually a rather communal experience; it’s also nice to know that the personal experiences that make me feel alone are also communal.
In fact, we’re perhaps never really alone on anything even if we’re in solitude.