Like any good Irishman, our father impressed upon my brothers and me that if we followed a rainbow to its end we’d be rewarded with a pot of gold. As children, fiendish in pursuit of the riches we were certain to obtain, we dedicated countless hours to this effect.
I was unexpectedly reminded of this, this morning while walking into a darkened boardroom in an office downtown. With one hand raised to my side, a single subtle movement would have filled the room with incandescent brightness. Instead, I lowered my arm and inhaled sharply, transfixed by what was on the other side of a large pane of glass.
The scene was for the most part unremarkable. Mundane even. Buildings in every shade of grey loomed like monoliths in all directions, indistinguishable from the cloud-filled sky and floating mist, but for their characteristic sheen. I stepped toward the expanse until I was close enough to the window that my forehead nearly touched the pane.
Looking down, my heart flapped like a bird in my chest, a feeling that doesn’t seem to go away, regardless of how many times I look out from those windows high above ground. Though the floor was firm beneath me, layers upon layers of concrete and steel, I was inescapably aware that they were the only things that kept me from 24 stories of freefall.
At street level, the scene was altogether different. Pedestrians scurried along sidewalks and across busy streets like insects, while tail lights burned red in the wake of cars. I thought of how only an hour earlier I had pushed through a revolving glass door into a polished lobby and hurried into an elevator. An hour ago I was one of them.
There in the dark, in the quiet above and away from the hustled melee, I braced myself with one hand on the window’s ledge, the other lightly touched to the cold glass. Barely visible amongst the clouds, though seemingly close enough to touch, there it was. A rainbow.
Looking back, I’m sure that the real treasure in my father’s having encouraged us to chase rainbows was our being out of his hair for long enough that he could make a significant dent in the weekend work requisite to owning an acreage.
Not to mention the pleasure he no doubt took at the expense of his idiot children, trouncing off in one direction for a time, only to stop and stare confusedly into the great blue yonder, when the rainbow seemed to change course overhead.
We were farm kids, by and large, with no real limit on the expanse of our wanderings. Upon the discovery of a rainbow, we’d set out on foot, armed only with a fortitude of spirit – and rain boots if our mother happened to intervene before we’d rushed out the door.
The air would be thick with the smell of fresh rain, birds chirping from their roosts in the underbrush; background music for the vocals of feverish plans for a fortune all but secured. We waded through an ocean of grass, punctuated with wild sunflowers that brushed against our calves with a swish, flinging droplets of fresh rain and petals like fallen coins.
We’d stop to laugh at the curiousness of a light rain shower as the sun peeked cheekily from behind a cloud, light beams streaming through the dampened atmosphere. This place was our paradise, our playground, our pride and joy. Even so, after having traversed what was likely a quadrant of the countryside, the only end we successfully achieved was that of our patience.
An understanding crystalized then, far away from home and decades away.
The adventure was in fact the bounty. The experience was the reward; the refreshing element of collaboration amongst my brothers and I, a welcome distraction that combated our usual desire to creatively plot against, or otherwise maim one another.
I watched from an office tower as the colours of a rainbow began to dissipate into the mist from whence it came, until it resembled nothing but a smudge in the skyline.
And I write this now for any fool who’s ever chased a pot of gold, only to later realize that they’d had it all along.
May the luck of the Irish be with you.