There were several reasons why Giles’ mood was tanking. First, there was the change in seasons. Summer was only a degree or two away from turning into fall.
Giles loved the summer. He lived in a northern clime and the winters were long and harsh.
The cold weather, when he’d been a child, had encompassed fun, no doubt about it.
There was skating and hockey. Tobogganing and skiing.
Some of these activities carried over into early adulthood. But marriage, children and expense, both in coinage and physical risk, became impediments later on.
At his current stage in life, approaching the half century mark in years, winters now meant struggle.
There were the extra layers of clothing to put on every day and the shoveling to get the car out of the garage in the morning.
Include the slipping and sliding on clogged streets along with other drivers who had varying levels of skill in negotiating ice and sleet.
The end of summer meant a long slow progression into shorter days, cooler temperatures and loss of sunlight.
It’s not like there weren’t compensations. There were days in fall that were truly special.
He thought of the varied and often vibrant colors of the falling leaves; the smell of scented candles; and succulent turkey cooking for Thanksgiving Day.
Winter also held its charms – the Christmas season, with its social aspects and gift giving and the enjoyment of joining his wife and children in decorating the tree.
Although the rush to get everything done on time was a pain.
Then there were several months at the start of the new year when one had a good excuse to stay indoors on darkened weeknights and simply read or watch TV.
But spring was a long way ahead once again and Giles, when he did the math, couldn’t believe how short a period of time foliage was on the trees.
Arboreal splendor lasted only from March to September in southern Ontario.
He loved greenery in all its shadings. And the rustling of the leaves.
Summer’s warmth was so healing. He could swim outdoors in the bay, feel the sun’s rays on his face and body and soak up vitamin D.
He knew he’d soon be missing his favorite season. His summer vacation was drawing to a close.
Then there was the matter of how confusing life was becoming. He was at a loss to explain so much of what was happening in the world.
Progress was leaving many behind. He sympathized. But one couldn’t stand still. That wasn’t the way the world of man operated.
Earlier in the day, he’d been driving home from a short trip to the local convenience store when he noticed a dwelling with three signs in the front yard.
They read, “Stop the Dump Site”, “Save Our Water” and “Halt the Mega Quarry”.
Giles sympathized with the message. But as someone who’d reached a certain emotional state, he also understood the sub-text.
The real message was a plaintive and personal cry to “Stop Everything.”
“At least stop everything until I die,” he thought grimly. He could understand the desire for a cessation in the onrushing speed of life and change.
“I know the tide can’t be held back forever, but at least wait ‘til I’m gone,” he thought.
And on that score, he’d begun to have anxieties about his own mortality. What would be the legacy he’d leave his family and friends?
It was this combination of concerns that was stressing him out.
Over the years, he’d developed a unique way of coping with his anxieties.
He’d joined the order of people who speak to objects.
His family often found him talking to trees, flowers, the grass, his home, his car.
At some buried level he believed most objects to be imbued with a spirit.
He knew this was crazy-thinking, but what harm did it do? And it gave him comfort.
Some objects were his friends. Some seemed to protect him.
In fact, such a belief system was positive in helping to sustain the longevity of things.
Because he treated them with respect, Giles’ “possessions” generally seemed to last longer than other people’s.
It made his driving more careful.
He was always sure to thank his car for keeping him and his family safe after a long trip. Questioning looks from curious neighbors were a small price to pay.
He liked to regularly express gratitude, out loud, for the manner in which his home and cottage provided shelter and security to his spouse and kids.
It also imbued him with a different way of looking at both the ordinary and exceptional among the events and physical surroundings of his space.
On this particular afternoon, he was descending deeper into his funk when he walked onto the back deck of his cottage and saw his pre-teen daughter, Emily, drawing in her binder.
She was seated at a small cedar table and most of her box of crayons was spread out over the flat surface. The focal point was a large sheet of white sketching paper.
“Whatcha doing, Sweetie?” Giles asked.
“I’m drawing the rainbow we saw a couple of weeks ago,” Emily responded.
Giles remembered it well. The arch filled much of the sky with an extraordinary radiance.
It was clearly visible at both ends where they anchored in the earth and was hinted at in a hazy way at the crown.
It marked the termination of a wild summer rainstorm on the drive north from home to cottage at the start of the family’s holiday.
“That was a beauty, wasn’t it?” Giles said.
“Sure was,” said Emily. “What causes rainbows?” she added.
“There are scientific explanations, and then there are folk-tale legends, but I don’t think any of them come close to telling the truth,” Giles said to Emily.
“What is the truth, Daddy?”
“People are always asking God to show Himself. Or Herself. To prove He or She exists. I think a rainbow is the ultimate proof.”
“Because it’s so beautiful?”
“No, because of its intent.”
“What do you mean, Daddy?”
“There are any number of beautiful things that can be pointed to as evidence that God exists – sunsets, waterfalls, a newborn baby, a family’s love for each other.
“But there are also ugly things that seem to argue the opposite. Evil things.”
“Evil?” questioned Emily, clearly in a quandary about what her father meant.
“Sweetheart, you’ve been brought up in a pretty protected environment. But trust me, the world has many elements of evil in it. Wars, violence and crime.”
“If God is all-powerful, why would he allow evil?” Emily asked.
“That’s a question for the ages. Maybe there’s a reason. Good versus evil means each member of mankind must make a conscious decision about the manner in which he or she will choose to live.
“Many great thinkers believe God grants us free will in the hope His creations will make the right choice. If we didn’t have to struggle to do the right thing, it wouldn’t be meaningful.”
Emily had a follow-up question. “If God hadn’t wanted there to be evil, he wouldn’t have created raccoons, right daddy?”
“You’ve lost me, Sweetie,” Giles said.
“Raccoons. You know, those cute little creatures with masks on their faces. They look like bank robbers. The evil you were talking about.”
“Hah. Very funny,” said Giles.
“You told me that joke about raccoons and bandits when I was a baby, don’t you remember?”
“Yes, I do now that you’ve reminded me.” Giles smiled for the first time that day.
“So what’s the purpose of rainbows?” Emily asked again.
“I believe a rainbow has an actual practical purpose that proves God’s existence in an easy-to-understand way.”
“And what’s that, daddy?”
“I think it has to do with God’s final judgment.
“I believe a rainbow is the colorful string that’s attached to a beautiful ornament – the earth. We don’t always see it, but it’s always there, in one location or another.
“When the history of the universe finally winds down and God puts His feet up to relax, He’ll look around and pick and choose among his works.
“Ultimately, those creations that proved most worthy will be recognized.
“After considering all the planets where life forms have taken root – small red ones, giant orange ones, purple orbs with rings around them – the Creator will assess which deserve recognition for reaching their full potential.
“Those will be the decorations he’ll pick to adorn his Tree of Life.
“Mankind’s purpose is to live the best lives we can. In the final analysis, the hope is that our blue and white bauble will be hanging by a rainbow thread on a prominent branch in Heaven.”
Emily considered her father’s comments and a wide smile slowly spread across her face. Giles couldn’t help grinning back.
There was a lot to be said for being mildly nutty.
All the colors of the rainbow were contained in the luminous connection made between father and daughter.
A more chaotic and humorous take on a father’s parenting skills appears in Copycat Commute Concerto.