Wednesday, May 12, 2010

12. Rainbow

My prism made a rainbow on the bookshelf today; it just needed the morning sun.

Hang on, the computer is upset.
It can’t communicate with the scanner.
Yeah, that’s my fault. I unplugged it accidentally for a moment.
Just — just try not to let it bother you so much.

Anyway, I have to talk about a day a few months back. It went like this.
We were walking down the road to meet a friend for coffee.
It was a pale, rainy day, and the harbour was ice-blue. In the distance, against pale clouds, the shimmer of a rainbow.
‘Look,’ I said to Charlie. ‘There’s a rainbow.’
I thought: he’s never seen one; where have all the rainbows gone; I guess, no rain, no rainbows.
‘Can you see it?’ I said, pointing, and he nodded, but I didn’t believe him. It was so faint and hesitant, and so far away.
‘They don’t make rainbows like they used to,’ I said.
Charlie was silent.

After coffee, the rainbow was gone. ‘It’s gone,’ I told Charlie, and again he was silent.

We walked past a construction site— diggers, dump trucks, crane— and stopped to watch a while.
‘Maybe they’re building a new rainbow,’ Charlie suggested. I got the impression he was trying to cheer me up.

Almost home, and a rainbow lorikeet was strung up dead on the electrical wires. A crow was pecking at it, feathers raining down on us.

Charlie asked what it was, and I couldn’t think of anything to say except that’s a dead bird. He did not seem to mind. I didn’t mention the crow, and neither did he. I tried not to think about it.

Inside, I went to put some music on. Radiohead’s In Rainbows was lying there beside the stereo.

That’s a lot of rainbows, I thought, in just one day.


I’m trying to scan in some photos at the moment.
In the next few days I want to write, on this blog, about the places where I was when I wrote each of the Ashbury books.
Why not.
But turns out my photos of those places are not the way that I remember them. I thought they were beautiful! But no. Just grainy snapshots at odd angles, and too dark. And that’s setting aside the fact that the computer and the scanner aren’t speaking.


A few weeks after that day, we saw a real rainbow.

It was a summer evening. I stopped at a gap between houses and trees to point out the rainbow to Charlie. He was sitting in his pram. This time there was no question: the rainbow was right there beside us, and not pretty, pale pastels but deep, bold colours. Something comical about that rainbow, some edge to it, some joke.

It was dusk. The sky was alive with the threat of a rainstorm. The clouds that day! They had a wild, purple extravagance. This is where the word ‘ominous’ belongs, I thought - it’s a word that should be stored for clouds like those! I actually began to feel afraid. I started to run. I ran the pram all the way down the hill — and Charlie was happy, holding his feet straight out — the wind and the speed.

Two sulphur-crested cockatoos were swooping down the hill at the same time. The swoop of them against that dark, dark sky – the immediacy of it – what’s going to happen?

Charlie says that often — he sings it actually— what’s going to happen?

The white of those birds against the dusk storm light – the shining, shining white of their swooping — and the curve of that wry and witty rainbow in the gaps between the houses and the paperbark trees.