I had one of those experiences last week that will reverberate in my life for years to come. I took a friend to hear Maya Angelou speak about rainbows in the clouds. The evening was amazing on so many different levels and I am sure that I have not even begun to plumb the depths of what she was trying to say.
As she began to speak, the time-worn, gravelly but honey-sweet voice projected out from her stately form and washed over me, prompting goosebumps to sprout on my arms and legs. I found myself completely unable to process the words she was putting together because I was so immobilized by the lilting cadence of her voice. I had come to this event wanting to capture each and every word she uttered in order to replay it in my mind for my children and my friends. I knew that this would be impossible, but I was prepared to try my best to remember it all. What I was not prepared for was the physical effect her presence would have on me.
As predicted, I was unable to recall specific phrases of enlightenment to use as sound bites. I suppose that was to be my version of “name dropping”; parcing out tidbits of brilliance that I had shared with Maya during our evening together. What I got instead was so much more valuable.
As the curtain rose, Maya’s voice lilted over the audience and hung in the air. She sang, “When it looked like the sun wasn't going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds. “ She is no American Idol contestant, this woman, but her voice is arresting and full of life and pain and scars and caramel-sweet love. It is that crumbly, rich, dark compost of her life all captured in her expressions of wisdom. Now, I don’t happen to be someone who believes in “God”, but her lessons resonated with me.
As I listened to her the faces of my teachers, those people in my life who have arced down from the clouds to reach me with their light and color, formed in my head. I have had rainbows that appear every time the sky clouds over and I also have those, like the friend who was sitting next to me, who are relatively recent in my life. Those rainbows are not solid or tangible, but they emerge when the sky is dark and scary and feels terribly oppressive. When I see them out in all their glory I can breathe easier and take a moment to stop and enjoy the sight. I know that what is important is the remembering. Remembering to acknowledge the fear and darkness and the light that always comes from within it. The light that couldn’t come without it.