What color brings to mind your past?
When I was really little, I shared a bedroom with my grandmother who lived with us until her death. The room was painted what I think they called rose, but was really more of vivid salmon pink. She loved that color, that of the roses her Norwegian logger husband gave to her before an accident in the woods, the weight of the world falling down. Doctors could do nothing for such internal injuries so they brought him home to quietly bleed out, there beneath her tears. She was just 36 years old and had three children. She never remarried.
As a kid I hated that color. It certainly didn't match my G.I. Joe action fort I'd built in the corner of the room. I swore if I ever had my own place it would NEVER have a pink room.
I chose yellow. Let's just say there wasn't much to pick from for the rainbow which is why there remains to this day (though the yellow has been painted over), two rainbows, a half one behind the bed, and a full one on the other side made out of 70's yellow, gold and aqua and yes, the remainder of the horrid salmon pink. Dad refuses to paint over them and surprisingly when he had his kitchen fire, my room was the only one closed off to the point it had no smoke damage.
There is no accounting for taste in color. When my daughter and her husband bought their first home, the price was a steal given the area, which was quite upscale, but for a good reason. Some of the walls were painted black (the rest seemed to be covered in those press on mirrors). Bits of the back yard looked like it had been torched, and the carpet inside was damp enough with spilled beer that you could probably grow wild rice in the living room. It had been some young hipster's bachelor pad (or Darth Vader's, we're still not sure). Now it is painted white and varying shades of blue, with three stories of glass that look out onto the Rockies, the walls seemingly joining the sky.
I'd say that if I had a favorite color, it would still be yellow, the color of butter, of daisies, and the sun that makes you weep as you look into it. Yet, there are other colors that bring back memories. The Range living room is this antique looking sage green. It could stand with a redo, but the color will remain the same, I think, as I go to the paint store to look at samples.
In looking through all the little squares of paint at the store, I think to myself that we always seem to associate scent with certain periods of our lives, but how about color?
There, in one display, are the rich vivid hues of sunrise. That takes me back to my last time camping out in the woods, watching the sunrise from my spot underneath a tree. At first, there is only darkness, the colors of the starless night, of a deep ocean crossing, the sky then gathering a bit of light in the depths, like the eyes of Jesus that look down on us from a cross on the wall, eyes that show no age as they show no forgetting.
Before the sun could even warm the earth, warm me, blue-grey gave way to gray, like the whole of Lee's army taking on the battle between dusk and dawn. The blood red of the sunrise leaches into the earth until the world goes suddenly and softly grey again. The clouds mourn and the birds sound an echo of taps up in the trees, as I sit and remember a battle of my own, tracing invisible scars of it upon soft skin.
Then, there in another section of the paint store are the blues and greys.
Some stones are so tiny as to be little bearings of smoothness, the size of a small birds egg. Others take both hands to hold. My Mom as well, was fascinated by stones, and we'd search through the grey and dark and cold surfaces looking for the one that will break open into glorious color of a gemstone. Rich colors forged in heat and fire and fate. We'd hunt down an agate, and knowing what we will find inside of it, we'd smile.
In native Indian culture agates were believed to cure the stings of scorpions and the bites of snakes, soothe the mind, prevent contagion, still thunder and lightning, promote eloquence, secure the favor of the powerful, and bring victory over enemies. In this agate, Mom might not find a cure for the stinging bite of what she has within her that was too soon to take her life, but in it she found strength and beauty, swirling colors of joy in that moment, something to sooth the thunder that rolled through her in dark frightening moments.
She handpicked them, and cataloged them by color and origin. I happily worked with her, capturing the deep energy of the earth, that grounded her to us.
Then, there are the reds, the color that is the crowning head of birth, the liquid grace in a gold chalice. It is color, that like blood, has as many variances as does the way it can be spilled, there in a flash of light, a burning, a blow, one instant of sublimation, then darkness again. It is the color of the senses, the depth of rose, the scent of meat, the taste of a lovers whisper, a torrent of red wine, of desire and loss.
For red is also the color of warning, the flash of light at the approach end of the runway that tells you if you are too high or too low. Such lights glare with luminous boding of the nearness of earth, the red and white lights that slide across the night itself, speaking aloud with silent sound to eyes that sometimes see what the soul cannot.
Flying on a clear night, one gets the sense that movement stops as if your ship is hung suspended from the stars with no forward progress. But when the snow hits, if the moon is bright enough, you have a sense of speed that is the wild leap of a toboggan off a hill. As the miles trail behind us like wake, we look out into the snow much as we did as children, mentally sticking our tongues out to catch a flake and let it melt, looking through the windshield with a sort of hushed searching for something so far beyond us, we can't as yet grasp it. It's a look that's both the wonder of the unknown and knowledge that is profoundly intent, time slowing down even at .82 Mach.
We had command of millions of dollars worth of steel, and a mission. But in that moment, we were simply children, our craft not burdened with time's dragging weight which the old garb themselves with each day, but with the unfettered fast movement that are those lost moments of play out in a snow covered field.
It comes back to you at odd times, sometimes when going full tilt into your day; sometimes as you sit in quiet reflection, a resonant distant hum of the dog sleeping beside you. The colors around you have a spent quality, like the rise of dissipating smoke, of the steam of an ancient engine, even as they softly gleam with light, pushing from their solitude into yours, nudging that memory of the past. It's a past that can be cold and vacant or warm with color. It's all how your soul sees what your eyes sometimes cannot.
That house is now sold, to pay for his continuing nursing care. All the things within it are gone, only a few pieces of Mom's glassware transported the thousand plus miles to my home to sit upon a shelf, the rest of my childhood only a memory.
As the sun comes up early this morning, I sit with my bread and coffee. Down the hall is a salmon pink bathroom that was the favorite color of a young Swedish woman who was the love of someone's life before she was my Grandma. It could be redone right now, but it won't be.
It sits as proudly in the morning light as my Grandmother did, in the bright glare of grief where shadows not only defined and became personal but formed and shaped her unexpected destiny. I'd like to paint it yellow, and someday I will. But for now, it remains. She loved that color and so, for that moment in the past, that memory, I let it lay upon the walls in peace.