Rainbows in the Frame: Emblems of Hope in a Dark Year

2 minute read

Over the past year, people around the globe endured epic, historic storms — literally and metaphorically — and were often left wondering, like countless generations before, whether the clouds would ever break. Peering through the dark lens of armed conflict, natural disasters and unfathomable barbarity in places as far-flung as Connecticut and Kandahar, we’ve all — at one time or another — wondered if the tide of catastrophe was, finally, simply going to overwhelm us.

As we approach 2013, it’s only natural that we look for glimmers of promise. Next August, for example, the United States will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — an event and an eloquence so central to a nation’s ideas of what it can be and should be that, in celebrating the memory of that day, we embrace the notion that united, we can overcome any new adversity.

Here, LightBox presents a series of images from 2012 that are joined in theme and in import by a slim yet powerfully symbolic thread: a rainbow connection. As we envision what the coming year might bring, and how we might do better as individuals and as a culture in 2013, we pause to celebrate the fleeting emblem of peace that was seen and photographed in unexpected, incongruous places — scenes that many of us no doubt missed in the welter of the past year’s violence and sorrow.

It is not what’s at the end of the rainbow that counts; we know, in our hearts, that there’s nothing there at all. But taking a moment, now and in the future, to acknowledge the rainbow’s fleeting beauty costs nothing, and there’s never any harm in hope.

Darkness and Light July 13, 2012. A double rainbow appears after a heavy storm near Searchlight, Nevada.Gene Blevins—Reuters
No More Shooting Massacres July 27, 2012. A rainbow appears behind Chantel Blunk, wife of Jonathan Blunk, as the flag-draped casket bearing her husband's remains is loaded onto a plane at Denver International Airport. Blunk, a five-year U.S. Navy veteran, was killed in the July 20 Dark Knight Rises shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado. RJ Sangosti—Getty Images
Hurricane Sandy Recovery Oct. 30, 2012. A rainbow forms over Breezy Point, Queens, in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in New York. Fire destroyed scores houses in the flooded neighborhood. Frank Franklin II—AP
An End to the Syrian Civil War Nov. 12, 2012. A rainbow appears above a market in the rebel-controlled area of Aleppo, Syria.Narciso Contreras—AP
Peace in the Middle East Nov. 23, 2012. Palestinians inspect the rubble of a destroyed house as a rainbow arcs over Gaza City. Mohammed Abed—AFP/Getty Images
Withdrawl From Afghanistan Feb. 19, 2012. An Afghan man watches pigeons on the roof of his house as a rainbow forms in the background in Mazar-i Sharif, Afghanistan. Qais Usyan—AFP/Getty Images
The Safe Return of Those Who Serve June 25, 2012. A Chinook helicopter passes before a rainbow as it maneuvers north of DuPont, Wash. .Tony Overman—The Olympian/AP
Help for the Powerless Jan. 14, 2012. A homeless man pushes a cart as a rainbow arcs acoss the sky in an area called "Cracolandia" (Crackland in English), in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil.Yasuyoshi Chiba—AFP Getty Images
Coexistence, not Sectarianism Nov. 11, 2012. A rainbow arcs over the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp and a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier in Isreali-annexed East Jerusalem.Ahmad Gharabli—AFP/Getty Images
Bipartisanship Nov 7, 2012. House Speaker John Boehner makes remarks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, during talks on the "fiscal cliff."Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images
An Effective Second Term April 24, 2012. A rainbow is seen off the wing Air Force One as it flies over Colorado with President Barack Obama aboard.Carolyn Kaster—AP
Strategies for Climate Change A rainbow is pictured over the remains of a burned home south of Reno, Nevada, January 20, 2012. A fierce brush fire on the outskirts of northern Nevada's largest city left 26 houses in ruins.Max Whittaker—Reuters
Future Space Exploration June 3, 2012 Space Shuttle Enterprise is carried by barge, behind a rainbow appearing in the mist sprayed by a fireboat near New York City. Michael Nagle—Getty Images
Closure Sept. 9, 2012. On the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., people walk among American flags at a memorial dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.Zhao Hanrong—Xinhua/Zuma Press

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com