A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Charlestowne Landing State Park. I had researched the park on-line and had looked forward to visiting the site for weeks. I had mentioned it to my wife and youngest son on Presidents Day as a possible day trip, but their response was less than enthusiastic. It is quite obvious, albeit understanding, that they don't share my passion for history.
I did have the opportunity a couple of days later to visit the park on my own. It was a beautiful February day in the Lowcountry, after dropping Noah off at school for the day I pulled into the access road to the landing and stepped back in time for my big adventure. The temperatures was pushing 70 degrees by mid-morning and the sun was warm on my back as I exited the indoor displays for my self-guided tour. I was armed with my camera, a park map and the rented MP3 player offered by the park ranger loaded with information to walk me through my soiree. Just as I started down the path leading toward the animal habitat area I heard a female voice saying, "excuse me sir." I turned to see who was calling me only to see a distinguished looking lady with a pair of binoculars around her neck and a very excited look on her face. Instinctively I answered her, "yes maam" and she begins to say, "sir, is this your first visit to Charlestowne Landing?" Not realizing that I must have looked like a full blown "touron", (half tourist, half moron) with all of the battlegear hanging around my neck I replied, "well yes, yes it is my first time." She smiled a warm and comforting smile and introduced herself as a regular and proudly announced that she was an official volunteer at the park, then she threw me a knuckleball. That's right, not just a curveball, but an all-out knuckleball. This seemingly hospitable lady says, "you seem like you are not in a hurry today, I was just wondering, would you like to take a few minutes and come along with me while I chase some rainbows?"
I guess she could tell by the look on my face that I was somewhat taken back by her question, so she immediately assured me that she was not a crazy lady but that her favorite activity on the park grounds is to walk about and look for actual rainbows, in the mist created by the various fountains that are installed in many of the ponds and lagoons throughout the park. Her face grew almost painfully lonesome and then turned to nearly beaming with pride and ownership when she pointed to a lovely fountain in the middle of the pond and she said, "I just donated that fountain right there in memory of my late husband." She then insisted, rather enthusiastically, "please, walk with me along this path, let me show you one of my rainbows." Well, I didn't have the heart to not oblige her request, and admittedly, at this point, I was intrigued. As I committedly followed her along the path, she explained to me that the rainbows are only visible for about 30 minutes in the morning, when the sun is precisely at a 42 degree angle in the sky, and then she stopped. Abruptly, only to re-adjust her stance ever so slightly, with a most satisfied smile on her face, much like somebody who has just seen the face of an old friend. Then she says, "there, there is one now." And sure enough, as I tilted my head to one side, there was a beautiful rainbow, just over the surface of the lagoon, in the mist of the fountain.
After receiving some more facts and information regarding rainbows I finally set off on my own to, among other things, chase some rainbows. I strolled along a path and I was moved by the nine George C. Birlant Battery Benches given in honor of the Charleston Nine, the nine firefighters who died in the line of duty on June 18, 2007 my first full day as a resident of Charleston. I read each memorial plaque on each bench, the firefighters name and thought what a moving tribute this must be for the family members of each fireman. When all of a sudden, it caught my eye, there it was, visible only for a second as I passed by a bench. A tiny droplet of water hung from one of the bench slats and there was a small rainbow prism of color eminating from that hanging droplet.
I proceeded down the path toward the animal display area of the park, and just as I entered the area where the shore birds are displayed in their natural swamp habitat I took a break and sat down on a bench to watch the birds. And there it was, a rather large spider web off to my right in the live oak tree, and the water droplets trapped by the web were causing another rainbow to capture my attention. I smiled and chuckled out loud. How amazing, had I not taken five minutes out of my day to visit with this wonderful woman, this woman who had found the most amazing passion for one of God's wonders, the visible prism of light caused by sunlight refracting through water, I would have never noticed these two rainbows. I wondered how many times I had gazed at rainbows in the past without really even recognizing them.
I have always interpretted the phrase, "chasing rainbows", in a sort of negative vein. Usually when somebody is said to be "chasing rainbows" they are on a quest for something that is not practical or even possible, headed for frustration and failure. How unfortunate. But from now on, the phrase has a different meaning for me, one of hope, one of faith and one of appreciation. In doing some research on rainbows I recently found a website dedicated to weather phenomena and atomospheric optics and the science behind them. The author(s) of the site have included a FAQ page and of course one of the questions asked about the mythical "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow. The answer to the question, I thought was quite appropriate. Of course the idea is that you can never reach the end of a rainbow, and since you will never get there to check, it can't hurt to think there is a pot of gold. Even if there isn't a pot of gold, a rainbow is such a beautiful thing that it should be considered a pot of gold in it's own way and we should be grateful for every chance we get to see one.(Schneider Family Web Pages at Kulgun.net)
I couldn't say it better myself. That day I had gone to Charleston Landing to learn about the past, to learn about the original settlers, pioneers who had come from a foreign land, some by choice and some against their will to a new land and a new beginning. I did learn alot about them that day, but thanks to my chance encounter I learned a little bit about myself and my life as well. I received a tangible reminder that there is beauty and wonder all about us if we just take a little time to chase the rainbows.