A Letter to my Grandchildren
by Mrs. Thelma Jenkins
Dear Emma and Charles,
Do you remember when we were in Scotland, how many rainbows we saw? There were quite a few when we were on the *Isle of Skye. The first time I ever went there, with your Mummy and Daddy (before either of you were born) we lost count of the rainbows, there were so many. It was a wild, windy day, with the blackest of thunder-clouds and then brilliant sunshine and one rainbow after another. We said at the time that it was *dramatic weather for dramatic scenery. Do you know what that means?
The most likely time for seeing rainbows, of course, is in the Spring and the Autumn - in April and October. These are the months when the weather seems to change most quickly, with brilliant sunshine one minute and then clouds and showers of rain the next.
People are not as thrilled as they ought to be when they see a rainbow. The rainbow is the sign of the promise that God gave to Noah, after He had flooded the whole earth because of the dreadful wickedness of the people. He saved only Noah and his family and when they came out of the ark, God said that He would never flood the world again. He told Noah that He would set His bow in the thunder-clouds, as a sign for ever, as long as the earth remained. The Bible tells us that because God is so holy and pure, He could never, never tell a lie and, of course, He could never break His promise. So, when we see a rainbow, we could say, if we wanted to, "Look! There is God's promise!"
You know, I am sure, that the rainbow is caused because the white light of the sun is broken by the falling raindrops. (The clever word for that is *"refraction" but I think "broken" is an easier way of understanding it.) So, instead of seeing ordinary white light, we see all the seven beautiful colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, *indigo and violet. When I was a little girl at school, we used to remember the order by saying "Richard Of York Gained Battles In Vain." Do you say that, or do you have another way of remembering the order of the colours? (That sentence is called a *mnemonic - what an extraordinary word! I won't tell you what it means. You can look it up in the dictionary and ask someone to explain it to you.)
It is not only clouds and rain that break the white light into colours - it can be broken by a *prism or by the *bevelled edge of a mirror. I remember when you and Mummy suddenly called me up to your bedroom when we were in the cottage in Plockton. To my surprise, I saw Charles standing with part of a rainbow all over him, almost as though he was dressed in it! It made us all laugh and Charles was very excited and called it "his rainbow". It had happened because the sunlight, coming through the window, had been broken by the bevelled edge of a mirror.
During that long drive home from Scotland, do you remember we played "Twenty Questions"? When it was Charles' turn, I helped him and we had "Charles' rainbow" for our subject. He sat chuckling in his corner of the car because no-one could guess the answer. When your Daddy asked, "Can you eat it?", he laughed and laughed and said, "No, I should think not." Then someone said, "Can you wear it?" and we both laughed and said, "Well, we did once see someone wearing one," because we were thinking of that time in the bedroom when Charles looked as though he was dressed in part of a rainbow. I think someone guessed it in the end but I don't know who - perhaps it was Emma.
I once saw what I always call the "broken end" of a rainbow. There had been very heavy morning cloud, rather like a fog, and as I sat by the edge of my favourite pool, not far from the cottage, I noticed that every blade of grass was bearing the tiniest droplet of water. Most of them were just white but here and there, where the sun broke the light, the droplets were red, orange, yellow, blue or green. It was fascinating to pick out the different colours, but I could not see violet and I wondered why. After a few moments, I changed my position, sitting with my back to the sun simply because I was feeling cold. But of course, we all know that we have to have our back to the sun if we hope to see a rainbow. Now, in my new position, I could see hundreds of these *minute, coloured jewels - flaming red, burning orange, glowing yellow, shimmering green, sparkling blue and the most beautiful glistening violet! I gazed and gazed with wonder, for these "jewels" looked so real that a small child would undoubtedly have tried to pick them up in his fingers. Yet it was only one more of the wonderful parts of God's creation, it was only "broken light".
Well, that's all about rainbows for the moment. I am writing this in March, so I hope that by the time April comes, and you read this letter, you will have seen many rainbows. I wonder if you will ever see the "broken end" as I did - I've only ever seen it that once.
With very much love, as always,
Copyright © Family Matters 1997