Cold Spring & Rainbows

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 13th March 2017

Cold Start to Spring

Brrrr – this week has been a tough week to be working outdoors. The temperatures have felt as though we have slipped back into February and the sharp, spiteful showers have felt more like we have leapt into April. It has also been National Spring Cleaning Week, and that goes for your garden as well as your house.

Bob Flowerdew once told me, “The difference between good gardeners and not so good gardeners is about 2 weeks!” And I always think that anything you get done this side of Easter will help you once the garden really gets growing!

There is a saying, ‘God gave us bad weather so gardeners could get their housework done,’ but I think that also means other indoor jobs like preparing tools and machinery for the season ahead. You can also plant he veggie plots and order seeds and make a list of improvements you’d like to make. As a good friend says, “Lists are not just for Christmas.’

Magic Rainbows

One lovely outcome of last weeks sunshine and showers have been the wonderful rainbows and even double rainbows that I have seen. Rainbows are created by both reflection and refraction, or bending, of light in water droplets in the atmosphere, which results in a spectrum of light appearing. When light passes through a raindrop it creates its individual rainbow. But it is so small that we can’t see it. So, when the light passes through millions of raindrops, collectively it makes a visible rainbow, which we can watch with our naked eye.

I was surprised to learn that a rainbow is in fact a full circle of light. However, due to mostly viewing a rainbow on the ground, we only see a semi-circle or arc of the rainbow.

If you are lucky enough to see a double rainbow, the dark, unlit sky between the primary arc and secondary arc is called Alexander’s band, after Alexander of Aphrodisias who first described it in 200 AD.

The acronym, or name, ROY G BIV is a good way to remember the colours of a rainbow and their order – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Make a Rainbow

Rainbows can be seen not just in rain but also mist, spray, fog, and dew, whenever there are water drops in the air and light shining from behind at the right angle. This means you can actually make your own rainbow.

You’ll need a glass of water (about three quarters full), white paper, and a sunny day. Then

take the glass of water and paper to a window, hold the glass of water above the paper and watch as sunlight passes through the glass of water, refracts (bends) and forms a rainbow of colours on your sheet of paper.

Make a Rainbow Disappear

And another cool thing to do with a rainbow is this: Look at a rainbow through naked eyes. Then watch the same rainbow wearing polarized sunglasses. You will still be able to see the rainbow.

Now hold your sunglass vertically and look through the glass. The rainbow disappears! This apparently is due to the difference in polarization. The molecules in polarized sunglasses are vertically aligned and the light reflected in water droplets to form rainbow is horizontally polarized. How cool is that?

And I couldn’t write about rainbows without sharing the wonderful poem, Rainbow Bridge, which is often of great comfort to someone who has lost a pet. The author is unknown.

Rainbow Bridge

There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the

rainbow bridge because of its many colours. Just this side of the

rainbow bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with

lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is

always food and water and warm spring weather. The old and frail

animals are restored to health and vigour. Those who were hurt or

maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember

them in our dreams of days and times gone by. They frolic and romp

all day with one another.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small

thing. They each miss someone very special to them, who had to be

left behind.

They run and play together, until the day comes when one of

them suddenly stops playing and looks off into the distance. The nose

twitches. The ears are up. The bright eyes are intent. The eager body

quivers. Suddenly this one runs from the group, faster and faster,

leaping and flying over the tall green grass.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend

finally meet, you take him or her in your arms and embrace,

clinging together in joyous reunion. Happy kisses rain upon your

face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once

more into the trusting eyes of your cherished pet, so long gone from

your life, but never absent from your heart.

And with your pet beside you once again, you cross the rainbow

bridge together.

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