When I left the building last Monday evening after teaching my class in Watertown, the parking lot was wet and there was a dark storm cloud moving to the east. I had no idea it was going to rain, or maybe even thunder, as I was surrounded by all that wood and concrete. I’m sure my classroom must have extra insulation to keep sounds out and other noises in, because when the door is closed, we can’t even hear the sounds making noise as they pass through the hall.
I was even more surprised when I left, took an open road with no tree cover, and saw a rainbow over half the sky. I wanted to stop and savor the view. I wonder about the colors. For example, why are there seven and no black? Can I see and recognize them all: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet?
But of course the traffic was heavy. Everyone was going somewhere. I was anxious to get home. The colors faded from my view as I entered the highway and put the car into cruise.
It reminded me of other rainbows. There was the double man I saw on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, who went all the way from east to west. It was no surprise to me that the Creator would place such a glorious landscape there, where people might be more attuned to the natural world; Where they may already be out there, look and see. I stopped at that time, because I wasn’t stuck in traffic. The road was deserted.
I was reading a commentary on a passage in Exodus the other day. It is about Moses and the burning bush. God speaks to Moses through that bush. Since the shrub was not being consumed, it had to look ethereal, like a rainbow. It is not as if such events can be grasped by the human hand or mind. Uh I know. Science can probably give me an explanation for both. However, there is beauty and mystery in all of creation that our rational minds cannot comprehend; If we listen, look and see.
For me, I hear that mystery in the owl’s voice. They have become a “burning bush” for me. The first time I realized this was in India. My wife and I were about to go home. In the morning we were boarding the plane for the return flight. We remembered that the flight was disturbed due to a plane crash over the Middle East. There was some worry and worry in the air.
As I was walking on the roof of our lodge to collect our clothes to dry on the lines, there was an owl hooting in the night; Yelling at me. I stood in amazement until it flew away. In all my previous trips to India, I had never seen or heard an owl. I certainly never expected to see one in central Delhi on the roof of our house. It was strange and soothing. It made me feel like everything was going to be okay.
Since that first time, owls have often been my burning bush and solace. One time I had an upcoming trip to Nicaragua, where I was going to be in danger with the Witness for Peace group; We missed a mine planted by the Contras by 15 minutes. The residents of the minivan were not so lucky.
When I hear owls, I look and listen.
We have spirea on both sides of our house. They are ancient shrubs, and have flowered in the spring every year of the forty years we have lived here. It is a white wall for a while and then the little white flowers disappear. Imagine my surprise when I walked by them recently and noticed a little flower tucked in the corner of a bush in September! With surprise, bordering on astonishment, I mentioned this to my wife. She smiled and said: “She is a gardener, she is a late flower.”
It is good to know that creation surprises us with late bloomers. Perhaps it is a message to all of us; For a dream deferred; The task left undone; Kindness was never offered; The promise was not fulfilled.
I don’t know much about flowers. I rely on my wife to provide me with names and details. I know we have a place where flowers bloom for only one day.
This seems like a waste to me. Or maybe it’s a good reminder to keep our eyes open and observe the world around us. Flowers come and go, like rainbows and owls. Sometimes, while we are surrounded by wood and concrete or looking at our phones while walking outside, a bush catches fire or parts of the sea catch on or the mountains sing or the blind man sees.
As my commenter wrote: “I once encountered a burning bush while watching a yellow jacket drink from a drop of water on a marigold leaf. …what burning bushes…we miss because we move through life too quickly to see such wonders, let alone taste them. Burning bushes probably happen all the time to those who are willing to step away long enough to truly see what matters to God.