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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Anthem for the Tenth Anniversary of September Eleven

This rainbow looks color tweaked by artificial means but I assure you it is not. If anything, in real life it was even more vivid, almost tangible. I was driving east on I-40 in northern Arizona about 2 weeks ago. That is open country, site of Meteor Crater and the Painted Desert, with boundless arrays of sky and territory rolling out in every direction. I had been weighed down with troubles as I journeyed to such a place. But this stunning arc of corporeal color appeared before me out of a sky full of wrath and shadow. I watched the rainbow for miles, my delight bursting out in wriggles and squeals. I could even see the ground beneath the rainbow's end bathed in its variegated lights. I wanted to run there and stand, arms open wide, as the colors slid down onto me.

I had no camera but after so many miles I began looking for shoulder pullouts because I had to capture this moment, even it it would only be with the weak resonance of a cellphone. The shoulder was narrow as far as the eye could see though, and that was pretty far. I couldn't remember when I'd last seen an exit. I couldn't stand to lose the rainbow forever, but my chances were looking grim But suddenly an exit appeared ahead, though it seemed to lead to nowhere, certainly not to a town. I abruptly pulled off and descended a noticeable gradient. At the bottom of the turnoff, not visible from the highway, I saw a red car. I pulled over just ahead of him and soon a young man emerged from his car with just the fancy camera I had wished for.

Imagine, two random people, in such lonely territory, pulling over at the same moment in the same abandoned spot, both feeling the same spontaneous inspiration?  If you can grasp the isolation of the territory, you'll catch an inkling of the eeriness of our being together in that place. 

He was on his way to New Mexico and he introduced himself as Brian.  We shared our excitement for the nearly supernatural rainbow, both anxious that the rapidly changing light make the phenomenon vanish before it could be caught.
Seeing I had no real camera, Brian offered to send some of his photos. I couldn't whip out my business card fast enough! Yes! Send them to this address!

He then gamboled off to capture the rainbow from fantastical angles that would reveal the mood of the place.

As I was doing my best to grab the luminous treasure to my cell phone, another car descended the ramp and appeared in our hidden cove of asphalt and barbed wire.  Car doors crunched open, releasing a family of 3 or 4, all gazing at the rainbow, fumbling for cameras and cell phones. 
That was a moment of real connection and joy for me as a human, as an American, all of us strangers pulled off at the same spot, following the same rainbow.

When Brian was true to a complete stranger he'd met on a forgotten road and sent these beautiful pictures,  I felt this tenth anniversary of the crashing of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 was the perfect moment to share his artistry with all of you. These photos, this moment on I-40, this spontaneous gathering of Americans, is my memorial anthem for September Eleventh: 

What Americans do is pull together with all their faces turned to the beautiful hope that lies ahead, the promise of light and joy, the vision of what we can reach if we just try.  September Eleventh stripped us down to our core and what we found was a people who reach out to strangers to offer their strong arm, their skill, their resources, their vision. In reaching out for impossible things, we found the American soul.

      Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain's majesty, and for extravagant rainbows on I-40.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So much thanks to complete stranger Brian Washam for sending these photos...and for sharing the moment.
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