Teachers noticed that little Arthur Fines did not seem to have the same drive to succeed as other students in their classes had. He was not competitive. He seemed unconcerned about pleasing adults with the sharpness and speed of his mind. Perhaps it was because he was using his mind in other ways.
His third grade teacher had a special counting project that the students got to work on each morning as soon as they arrived at school. Some did the work begrudgingly, some did it eagerly. Arthur always started out well enough on the counting project, but then something would happen that would interrupt his focussed counting. Teachers would often report finding him not counting at all, rather, he’d be staring out the window, watching clouds build or drift by, watching the weather, perhaps watching cars drive by on the road, but not counting. “He’s a dreamer,” teachers would report to his parents on parent/teacher nights.
Yes, little Art was a dreamer. There seemed to be nothing that could be done about it. His tendency to drift away into daydreams was seen as a detriment to his learning. In strictly academic senses, daydreaming does not help much with learning demanding disciplines.
He was kept back in school only one time, but he never achieved much in the way of academic excellence. He did well in what was then called manual training, he was better than average in physical education and in art too.
Eventually, he landed a job that seemed to suit him as a clerk in a hardware/building supplies store in his own small town. He knew many people in town. He was a friendly and helpful clerk. When things were busy in the store he could be counted on to pull his load. But when things were not busy the amenable local owner was content to give Art some simple sign-making tasks and just let Art take his time getting things done. Art often even got to walk home for lunch when things were not busy.
One day in the winter when Art had gone home for lunch and was walking back to the store, an intense snow flurry was underway even though the sun was still shining quite brightly through the millions of falling flakes. Art knew that rain falling in sunshine often produced a rainbow. He wondered if snow falling in sunshine would produce a snowbow. He looked around to see if he could see a snowbow.
Rainbows can be intensely coloured, dramatic phenomena. Sometimes, even double rainbows appear, adding to the drama of the event. He could remember a time when his dad had told him and his brothers that if they could find where a rainbow reached the earth, they would also find a pot of gold that they could claim as their own. “How could this be?” they wondered. It was because, mysteriously, no one could ever find the end of a rainbow.
He remembered dashing off, along the very low-traffic, rain-dampened country road, running his little heart out, chasing the rainbow to find its end. He knew his family could make good use of a pot of gold. He wanted to be their hero, and finding the end of the rainbow, a rainbow that he so clearly saw ahead of him, seemed more likely than not. Eventually, one parent or the other bellowed for him to stop running. He was still within ear-shot. Reluctantly, he obeyed the command and shuffled his way slowly back to his starting point on the front lawn.
Wake up, Art! A voice called in his head. He shook the memory from his focus. Here he was, dreaming again! Dreaming of rainbows when he was supposed to be searching for snowbows. He wondered if snowbows might be even more intensely coloured than rainbows, given that they’d be created by crystaline snow, it made some sense to him. But then, since he’d never seen a snowbow in his life, maybe the opposite was true. Maybe snowbows would be much more subtle in their colouring. Maybe they’d be so subtle as to escape detection by the human eye.
Once again, Art began contemplating rainbows as he walked back toward work in the fluffy flurry of snow. He reasoned, naturally occurring rainbows only exist due to triangulation of sunshine at one point, water vapour at another point and an observer at a third point. The triangle may take many shapes and will still work, but it must be a triangle. He supposed that it became a philosophical question if the rainbow existed without the observer. He thought not. He thought that if any point in the necessary triangle were eliminated, the rainbow would be no more. The observer was a necessary part of the creation of the rainbow. If it was possible to see a rainbow, there must also be an atmospheric condition under which one could see a snowbow.
Art protected his eyes as he looked up at the sun. He covered the brilliance of the sun so that he could better search all of the sky – and there it was! A snowbow! He stopped in his tracks, and at that point he literally had “tracks” in the snow. Yes! Yes! There it was! It was a ring around the sun! And could he see colour separation in that ring? Yes! He could see colour separation, though he had to look long and hard but most definitely, he could see all the visible spectrum though each hue was but a ghost of its own possible intensity. But there it was! A snowbow!
He was slightly disappointed to learn that rather than being more dramatic than rainbows, snowbows were so subtle he might well have missed seeing it altogether.
Later in the hardware store he leaned his elbows on the counter by the register, propped his chin and jaw on a hand and dreamed of how he’d make a snowbow if he had been in charge of snowbow design. Art dreamed of a rainbow-coloured arch that sparkled with movement as the crystalline particles hovered in the air. Or perhaps snowbows might be more clearly visible, sparkling circles that flew about slowly in the snowy air like hovering, sparkling, rainbow-coloured, circle-shaped drones. Children could chase them and try to catch them like they try to catch snowflakes on their tongues. Young lovers could take them as signs that their loves were meant to be.
The store manager looked down from his office at his sales floor to see two customers browsing the aisles and one store clerk daydreaming behind the sales counter. The manager didn’t know why he let Art continue his dreamy reverie. There were customers to be served. The manager heaved a small sigh, wished he could be upset almost as much as he wished he could somehow be with Art in his dreamy transcendence. Then trudged downstairs to see if he might help the customers himself and let Art awaken himself from his dream of snowbows.