It's hard to believe but only a month ago my boyfriend and I were on holiday in sunny Australia! One of the best memories of the vacation was a road trip we took to Canberra, the capital. As we were driving down the highway (or I should say he was driving, I was navigating) we noticed there was a rainbow in the sky, directly in front of us. And as we kept going, the colors got more and more intense and vivid. By the time we had joined the others and pulled off to get a picture, the rainbow had grown to encompass the whole sky and our camera wasn't capable of capturing it all. I was standing there lost in the glowing colors when I heard a sudden intake of breath beside me and I turned to see AnTaek pointing to a SECOND rainbow forming above the first one! It was simply amazing. When we finally did get back on the road, there were times we thought we were close enough to drive right under it or that the end would be in the farm field to the right, just over the hill. Somehow the elusive rainbow was always just out of our reach.
This got me thinking about all the layers of meaning the rainbow holds for me. The most obvious to most probably would be rainbow as a symbol of gay pride and identity. Since 1978, when the rainbow was used as a pride flag in San Franscico, the rainbow has been used on bars and in districts to let people know that these are places that gay people can be themselves without fear. And of course there is the merchandising and crass commericalism. One year for AnTaek's birthday I did a whole theme of rainbows with the bag and all that was within: a wristband, belt, candles, necklace and T-shirt. I think he wore the belt once!
All the overkill of rainbow use has led some to proclaim they are "SO over the rainbow" which refers to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the cult classic movie "The Wizard of Oz." Sung by Judy Garland, this song expresses a desire for another world that's better than the one we currently inhabit. Garland, called "Elvis for homosexuals," had legions of gay fans, so much so that the catchphrase "Friend of Dorothy" was coined to refer to gay people at a very closeted time in our nation's history. And it's no wonder that this song became a gay anthem.
For me, the song never had anything to do with that. Whenever I hear "Over the Rainbow" I feel a sense of longing for my home. Like Dorothy, after seeing fabulous places and meeting amazing people, I always feel drawn back to Kansas. Kansans have embraced the movie, adopting the slogan, "Kansas-Land of Ahs" and even have a museum (and of course merchandise to go with it!).
And as for the rainbow, I'm always reminded of a book marker I got when I was a kid, as a reward for helping out with Vacation Bible School (the first of my many teaching experiences). It said "The Rainbow is a Promise" which refers to the covenant God made with Noah to never again destroy life on our planet through water (Genesis 9:12-17). To me the book marker's meaning was less global and more personal. Whenever I saw a rainbow, it was God's promise to me. No matter what storms asail my life, this symbol of hope promises to provide for me and keep me safe.
So whether it be a symbol of pride, a desire for a better life, a longing for home, a promise of security or all these things, today I thank God for the miracle of the rainbow!