My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
– William Wordsworth
Laurie Shields (Biodesign ’80) sent this photo of a beautiful rainbow that seemed to be welcoming Calistoga residents back from their mandatory evacuation. Normally I am a big fan of rainbows, however, this one has me in a quandary. Was this a sign from God, a simple capricious act of Mother Nature or was there some other hidden meaning? It must have been a wonderful sight for Calistogans whose homes were spared, but little solace to the 1000s of people who have lost their homes, jobs and been displaced by the horrendous Tubbs Fire. Interestingly, Galileo kind of helped me out of my dilemma:
“Nature is inexorable and immutable and does not care one jot whether her secret reasons and modes of operation be above or below the capacity of man’s understanding.”
In other words, as horrifying as it might be, man is not exempt from the powerful forces of nature such as hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and fires. Therefore, I guess this means that we have to take the rainbow for what it is; a mysterious sign of beauty, hope and wonder in the midst of all the horror.
However, it dawned on me that humans are capable of creating invisible rainbows, connecting with each other.
Paraphrasing “Mr. Rogers;” when disasters occur, “look for the helpers” and you will see man at his finest. https://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/scarynews.asp
Our eldest daughter was recently at a north Santa Rosa grocery store that escaped the fire. A fire crew had just arrived for a generously offered free lunch. Through the soot, sweat-stains, grit and grime she recognized the familiar face of the husband of one of her teaching colleagues. He was absolutely exhausted and said that he was coming off a 100-hour shift. It began with 48 hours straight because replacement crews had not arrived. Since then, 100s of stories have emerged where people committed heroic acts to save others, their property and animals.
We watched courageous pilots fly helicopters and huge planes into heavy smoke in repeated attempts to douse the ravaging flames.
The damage will cost many billions of dollars and the Tubbs Fire (and surrounding Sonoma County fires) will surely go down in history as the most destructive wildfire in US history, however, without the self-less dedication of 1000s of firefighters, first responders, and law enforcement officers the damage could have been so much worse. Many of them continued to battle even though they were told that their own homes had been destroyed.
As awful as this experience continues to be, the responses of these men and women transcend normal human behavior and offer us hope for humanity that just last longer than a transitory rainbow.