Long Lake double rainbow

Isn’t that something! Actually somethings. A double rainbow. The day was sunny. There was a cloudburst. Out came the sun again. And rainbows appeared.

The bright rainbow is a primary rainbow. In a primary rainbow, the arc shows red on the outer part and violet on the inner part. From what I’ve been reading, a primary rainbow appears when light is refracted as it enters a water droplet and then it’s reflected (somehow) on the back of the droplet and gets refracted again as it leaves the droplet. Light. Such a trickster.

In a double rainbow, a second arc, the one higher in the sky, has the order of its colors reversed, with red on the inner side of the arc. This is light playing with a water droplet again. Somehow the light is reflected twice on the inside of the droplet before it exits. Light. Such a show-off.

Here’s another slice of rainbow on the same afternoon.

Fall rainbows

On a perfect spring or summer day, when everything is perky and bright anyway, rainbows are just the frosting on the cake. Very yummy but sort of more than you need. But once fall really gets going, it’s way different. It’s been raining for days and days now. You feel, in your bones, how cold it’s soon going to be. You are checking for cracks in every shell you live in trying to figure out how the cold will get at you.  Through the patio doors.  Through the electrical sockets. Through socks that have sprouted holes. Through a sweater that’s somehow not buttoning right anymore. You are bracing for the winter.

And then a rainbow like this happens. There is nothing better than a rainbow arched in a deep gray fall sky.

In a clearing off Sorenson Road, near Hillman’s Long Lake.  October 27, 2011.

A Double Rainbow Day


This is the place. Nothing too fancy. This is the view from the lakeshore. Our Wilderness System Pungos are waiting for the next paddle. My aunt and I were peddling back from near the narrows, on the paddleboat, when it started to gently rain. As we were almost home, we saw it. The arc of a great rainbow framing the cottage. And, above it, a faint but definite visual echo of the rainbow. This is Michigan, folks. Rainbows aren’t all that frequent. Doubles are rarely seen. If you look very close, in the corner of the porch, you’ll see a small figure in a red sweatshirt. That’s my mom Clare. This was her last weekend on Long Lake. It was the fall of 2008. She died a few months later in early December, after a brief illness. This is the Clare who taught me to knit. The Clare who sewed 15 years of Halloween costumes for Dan and most of her four granddaughters. She was on an exercise bike at the hospital rehab center on Tuesday and died on Friday surrounded by her sister, her sons, and me. So this is a special photo in a lot of ways. She was a good woman and we miss her. It was a beautiful double rainbow day.