Over the Rainbow
My friend said to write a piece titled ‘Over the Rainbow’.
My mind enclosed those words like a Venus Fly Trap and that was almost end of story. I bristled when first seeing her words. Don’t know why. Maybe this! Rainbows were once beautiful happenings in the natural environment. We looked up at them when they occurred, and felt an undeniable peace-full contentment. Now the word ‘rainbow’ is identified with people movements, multiple coalitions and drinks (alcoholic and non), galore.
My immediate brisling response was, ‘I don’t know anything about rainbows’. Between then, Monday night and now (Saturday afternoon) I have sat to write about rainbows, but nada, nothing came to me. I wrote other stuff and even noted one piece as a prelude to the upcoming work, ‘Over the Rainbow’.
From that first night’s sighting, the shout out ‘No Way’ showed up loud and clear. The unidentified character that shouted out to me declined the invitation to appear.
It’s like I was fighting myself. No, more like observing some of the hidden identities of this Fred guy. I even give them space on the page.
Me: Right guys?
H: Yeah, right.
Me: Now I know H is just being agreeable. She doesn’t like conflict.
Actually, I do remember one specific rainbow occurrence in my life. The words to describe what transpired don’t do the experience justice, but I will just try. I’d say it was a (the next word may offend some of you) God X experience.
Why X? A God X experience cannot be explained by any means we humans generally use to communicate with. Simple as that.
We, Deborah, Babu, and I were in Nepal, on a 10 day Langtang Mountain Range trek. I had invited Deborah from New York to join me for a few weeks in India and Nepal. Babu, our much older guide, led the way in the Nepalese Mountains. This old guy’s feet were tough enough to walk through snowy drifts, over jagged rocks, and in the grassy areas, bare.
We shortened the trek because Deborah contracted the dreaded thin air, high altitude, dizzying mind and body sickness.
On the way back down, I was feeling exhilarated and walked far ahead of the other two. Babu walked behind Deborah, who had slowed down substantially. My exhilaration was due to the crisp, clear mountain air, the astounding beauty around us and something I had completed just days earlier, while on the trek.
A few mornings earlier I had buried my gohonzon under the Tree of Life. Let’s step back here. In Japanese, a gohonzon is a generic term for a venerated religious object. I know we are getting away from rainbows, but this seemed an important enough detour.
I was driving a NYC taxi at nights, out of the Astoria Queens garage. I’d show up at 4 PM, get a cab, and return it at 4 or 5 the next morning, six nights a week.
As I waited for the car, I noticed activity going on in a small building across the street. People dressed mostly in white were going in and out throughout the day. There were also chimes and singing coming out from there. I asked, but none of the other cabbies knew anything about the place.
One day, I walked over and entered the building.
I was greeted by a very pleasant fellow and weeks later I was chanting ‘nom myoho renge kyo’ over and over, for hours at home and at times, with hundreds of other devotees, at the center. The chant signified the ultimate law of the universe.
The gohonzon, a rice paper scroll embedded with Japanese characters, is the graphic expression we used as a focus for our praying. Nichiren Shoshu is the Japanese sect of Buddhism being practiced. Nichiren inscribed the gohonzon to serve as a mirror to reflect our innate enlightened nature, it was said. The philosophy didn’t interest me at all. What turned me on were the harmonic vibrations generated from a room full of chanters. Overwhelming and chill-raising connectedness. If any of you are devotees here, I accept the responsibility of making any errors. So be it.
I totaled(crashed) a taxi, was fired from that company and hired by another. During this time I was attending York College with the intention of transferring to the City College of New York, to study Civil Engineering.
(Why Civil Engineering? Admittedly, a whole other story.)
I continued to chant for a while until it became evident many disciples were chanting for cars, homes, money or relationships. Chanting for stuff didn’t appeal to me and as quickly as I started, I stopped, about two years later. I felt the gohonzon contained vibrations of love, so wrapped it up and tucked it away. Years later, it joined me on my travels through Europe and much of Asia, until the day I buried it under the ‘Tree of Life’, in Nepal.
So here we are back with Babu and Deborah on the narrow trail, and me far in the lead. Babu was skilled, kind, caring and knowledgeable. Hee offered Deborah a plant to chew for her discomfort. He carried her pack and spoke very little English.
Here comes other little detours.
I detour a lot, don’t I? It’s how my mind works.
Even when speaking face to face with others, they may be overwhelmed by the number of my topic diversions. Close friends, the few I have, accept my foibles, as I accept theirs. Generally, I return to the initial thought or conversation. Sometimes not. Oh well.
I did wind up at the CCNY School of Engineering and was doing poorly because basic chemistry was a language I could not fathom at all. Only one year of chemistry was needed in the program. That embarrassing situation ended by me getting held up, robbed and shot in the face, in the taxi one night.
The farmer’s stallion ran off and the neighbors were all so sad and apologetic. The stallion returned weeks later with a beautiful mare and bore the farmer an eventual herd.
I wound up prospering in and enjoying commission sales positions for many years afterwards. Sometimes it’s the negative occurrence that foments a positive outcome.
A couple more diversions before rainbows.
We were on the trail, when it appeared. The Tree of Life was all by itself, out near the cliff’s edge. The trunk was aged and large around. The scraggly branches reached skyward. I knew this weathered monument to life was the Tree of Life. I pulled the gohonzon from my pack, unwrapped it, said a prayer of thanks and buried it right there.
OK, almost back to a rainbow.
One afternoon on the trail, we came upon three Nepalese woodcutters, taking a break from work. Deborah took a photograph of me with them. That photo is on my FB page.
I mention it because my ego says ‘You were handsome back then. Get an affirmation from others’. I know. I know. Back then is an illusion.
T: Hey, please stop drifting off on all these tangents.
J: Yeah, stick with ‘Over the Rainbow’.
O: You’re getting too big for your britches again.
Me: Not you again O. You haven’t shown your face around
here in years. Get back where you came from. NOW!
I am far ahead of Babu and Deborah on this early morning.
The narrow path is winding upward and then suddenly drops for a few 100 feet before starting to rise again. Momentum propels me forward to the lowest point, where I stop and turn to look across the valley. A wide, bottomless abyss separates the mountain we are on, from the one running parallel to it.
Within a few moments the sun began to rise at my back.
A brilliant living rainbow appeared high above my head and landed on either side of me. I say living because the color-full hues were vibrating around and through this backpacked body, at a seemingly cellular level. I was transfixed in paralysis. As the sun rose my human shadow also rose across the valley onto the opposite mountainside, still within the rainbow frame. Tears flowed freely from out of nowhere. I and my shadow were under the rainbow, yet were an integral part of life itself. The sun slowly rose higher. The rainbow and shadow dissolved just as quickly as they had manifested.
Deborah and Babu appeared to my right, coming down the trail. How do I share my experience with an other?
I said a few words and we continued up the trail.
That visible blessing has remained with me, all these years later.
So there I was ‘Under the Rainbow’, not over.
Here we are with my written story, having nothing to do with the title of this piece. For me, this is a testimonial to perseverance.
If I had given up, no story.
I just kept at it and ‘under the rainbow’ showed up.
Even now, there is that yet unknown ‘No Way’ character, preventing me from completing the initial request.’
Me: Fine, let’s write this your way.
‘Under the Rainbow’ is the title.