Driving across the valley this afternoon I was stricken by the deep gray of the sky, pierced by one of those rainbows that seem to hurtle straight down, impaled in the earth by some Old Testament heaven. Ancient yet vibrantly transient, it quivered with color and light in the atmosphere just past the horizon.
We had experienced one of those rainstorms that seem impossible in other parts of the country. As it passed over fields of yesterday's hayrows, illuminating neatly baled rectangles still green from the cutting, the stark light from the bright clear sky off to the west threw deeply contrasting shadows on the east and south sides of each bale. The depths of shadows and the brightness of light were irreconcilable within the same picture plane. I remember thinking that if anyone were to paint the scene just the way I'd seen it, no one would ever believe it. They would think it was a complete fantasy-an imaginary landscape with no grounding in nature. No whites could possibly be that bright. No sky at 6:00 PM could be so dark. Hay fields could never be as green. Cut bales would never look as blue.
It is now late in the evening and as I write the world is softly wet and the skies are once again calm. Tomorrow the sun will shine as it does so pervasively in California and the hay bales will be yellow. We will have lost our sense of awe and we will wonder if it was only our imagination that turned the hay bales blue in the gray day when the storm made the rainbow stab the earth at the end of the freeway.
Tomorrow we will not need to turn on our windshield wipers or bother to wonder if the heavens will impale the fields with another rainbow spear. We will resume being Californians, accustomed to the pervasive sunshine.