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  • A strong set of thunderstorms have just rolled over St. Louis, shaking the house a little, but giving us some more desperately needed rain. Even after the remnants of Isaac came over us last week, much of Missouri was downgraded only to 'severe drought' (from "extreme"), so we've a long way to go. The storm was chasing me as I cycled home; by the time I was coming up the hill to the house, the sky was dark grey with even blacker clouds dipping down. I got in with only two minutes to spare before the deluge began. It might as well have caught me, though - I was dripping with sweat from my accelerated sprint to shelter.

    It's dark now, still raining but no longer thundering.

    Largely because I like to follow my more intense stories with something rather more mellow, the storm took me back to this summer and the evening after another much-needed thunderstorm, this time in the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

    I was with my son David on one stage of our massive road trip, an "L"-shaped journey directly west from St. Louis into Arizona and then straight north through Utah, Idaho and into Montana. I'd booked a cabin at the Mesa Verde Far View Lodge for one night. We had eaten at the lodge restaurant, elk Shepherd's Pie for me (oh, it was good), and had just returned to settle in when this rainbow appeared.

    As the lodge is built on a mesa top at an altitude of 8,200 feet, the view is pretty expansive. Maybe that explained this extraordinary rainbow, probably the most perfect I've seen. There's even a hint of a double if you look closely in the blue sky above the bands. Making it even more extraordinary was the way the setting sun had caught the clouds under the rainbow, giving them a rich orange glow.

    It looked simultaneously familiar and unearthly. Like a portal from this world into another. I could almost imagine a city of dust in that golden glow, so very Philip-Pullmanesque it seemed. A spirit city to match the mysterious but very real cliff face dwellings that are the architectural highlight of Mesa Verde.

    Like all rainbows, it passed in just a few minutes. Enough time, though, for a photograph.

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