A Rainbow Over Manoa

Originally posted on the defunct Felloffatruck Publications site on 28 May 2007, shortly after The Amoeba landed in Hawai‘i.

Quilly and I saw the same rainbow on our way to work this morning (25 February 2009), she in her car, I on my bicycle. A perfect arch, anchored on Waikiki to the south and Manoa to the north.

For my part, I imagined the guardian leprechauns giving stern lectures in physics to the ones (these days, probably including the Governor of Hawai‘i and the Mayor of Honolulu) who came seeking the pots of gold at the rainbow’s ends.

Then I remembered – the other day, Quilly put in a request for a hoodie. Which are all the rage among the Honolulu natives in winter, when it’s all of three degrees F colder than it is in summer. The same three degrees colder this winter than last, when we were running around in our shorts and T-shirts and wondering what the hell these crazy people were doing, wearing fur coats in this heat.

Made me wonder – if we’re getting acclimated to the weather, are we going to get acclimated to ho hum, just another rainbow? Sometimes (sadly) we have to be reminded what it’s like to marvel …


The “Manoa” of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is a valley, trending in a NE-SW direction, with the Ko‘olau Range at its head and Waikiki where it meets the sea. It is flanked by steep-sided spurs from the mountain range, rising hundreds of feet from the valley floor, which peter out about a mile and a half from the beach.

Up the valley about a mile from campus, there is a shopping center. I have business there, and start walking to it at about 3 PM on a sunny Sunday afternoon. At least, it’s sunny where I am. But the trade winds are blowing, and they are pushing clouds, thick clouds, white at the top but dark at the bottom, over the ridge and down into the head of the valley. Tendrils of those clouds reach for the shoppers of Manoa. They dissipate before they can make good their threat, but every once in awhile, there is a drop of mist on my cheek.

The walk takes about twenty minutes, much of it on a path where the houses and the mango trees block the view of the valley walls. At the end of the path is an open field. Here, the whole upper valley comes into view. And as I’m crossing that field, I notice the stub of a rainbow rising from the ridge spur to my right – the eastern wall of the valley.

Not much of a rainbow, I thought to myself, short and dim. I thought Hawai‘i was supposed to be able to do better than this.

Then I looked again. The stub was the upper part of a double rainbow. The lower part, brilliant and full, had splashed itself against the side of the ridge, never launching itself into the sky but expending its brightness like spray paint against the green mountain.

A few minutes, and a hundred yards or so, and the angle had changed enough so that the top of the bow just managed to clear the ridge. And standing over the top of the bow, almost touching it, there was the waxing moon, five days from the full.

I went into the shopping center, expecting to be inside a good long time and not seeing anything more of the rainbow.

I was right about the “good long time”. It was nearly two hours later when I finally got what I came for and could emerge from a place where the only things Hawai‘ian were the price tags. The sun was low in the sky by the time I could see it again, and the skies clear overhead. But the trades were still blowing, and I looked to the west and to the slanting rays of that sun, and they were mottled by drifts of mist.

And to the east, the rainbow, full and sharp, towered over the parking lot.

I stood in the middle of that parking lot, transfixed. Like I would have in Maine, where a rainbow of such perfect colors and dimensions would stop traffic. People would pile into each other, would race to windows and onto porches and patios (quite possibly still underwater from the just-passed violent thunderstorm), all of them digging for cameras and cell phones.

Manoa’s shopping center was full of cars and people, each one of them with a purpose, each one focused on his or her private errand. Not one of them so much as looked up.

I suppose that’s not so strange. I can imagine a citizen of Hawai‘i, newly landed in Maine, staring in blank-eyed astonishment at the lobsters in the aquarium’s touch tank. While the Mainahs shake their heads and slowly walk away. Tourists!

And then I noticed the moon. The filling moon, in exactly the same place on that rainbow, perched practically touching the top of its arch, that it had been when the rainbow was still spraypaint on the valley’s eastern spur. It’s as if the moon were pulling that rainbow. Stretching it into the fading of the day, higher and higher and yet higher still.

Until the arch can take no more and it shatters into brittle pieces that fall, dissolving as they go, never reaching the valley floor.

Leaving only the memory of color in the gray shapes under moonlight.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007, 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.


  1. *Clap Clap Clap* I had such a wonderful clear picture of this for the length of time it took me to read this I was in a peaceful aura. Mahalo OC for transending me, if only for a couple of minutes, into a serene beautiful place. Yikes…hoodies…LOL. You have been in Hawaii a while LOL

  2. Love, no matter how long we live in Hawaii, I hope I never stop marveling at rainbows. And you know what I was thinking as I drove along? I was thinking that the “pots” of gold at the Waikiki end of the rainbow were really cash registers.

  3. Thanks, Thom. Quilly can have the hoodie, I’m still trying to chill out, so to speak. Unless I can get one and rig it as a sail on my bike. With the winds the way they are right now, I could hoist that sucker and never touch the pedals once on my way to the University.

    And here I thought yellow was the new rose, Doug …

    If that’s true about the cash registers, Quilly, we might be in for a rainbow shortage ’round here. Those cash registers ain’t ringing, I hear tell.

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