It is Sunday morning. I am sitting at a restaurant table overlooking the beach at St. Simons. The sky is the color of new chambray. The water is the color of an oft-worn, oft-washed Dickey work shirt. The entire landscape is bathed in blue.
Using the Crayons provided by the kind server, I am drawing — on the back of the children’s menu — a color wheel. Jackson and Chambless are watching me carefully as I demonstrate how red and blue together make purple, blue and yellow together make green, yellow and red together make orange.
They lean toward me and the color wheel as far as they can without falling out of their chairs. They stare with admiration and amazement. It is magic. “Let me try!” “I want the blue!” “Look! Look! See? It’s purple!”
I have always been fascinated by color. The first tangible thing that I ever coveted was a 64-pack of Crayola crayons, convinced that cornflower and salmon and goldenrod were infinitely better than plain ol’ blue and red and yellow. I spent hours in my mother's sewing room arranging the endless spools of thread into sections and the sections by hue. My first term paper, written in the seventh grade for Mrs. Nell Brown, was about the use of color in interior decorating.
It was in researching that term paper, completed entirely by using the card catalog and the heavy-as-a-cinder-block Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, that I first learned about the color wheel — primary and secondary colors, warm and cold colors, complimentary colors. In doing so, I found explanation for the extremely strong preferences I exhibited, sometimes to my mother’s chagrin, every time she and I went to the fabric store. I also armed myself to entertain my great-nephew and -niece 50 years later.
A few days later, still on the island, I am sitting high above the ground on the screened porch of the condominium where I and some co-workers are staying during a conference. It is early morning. I am surrounded by trees and shrubs and other assorted vegetation. Green. In every possible shade.
This island is one of a handful of places on the earth where I am most at home, most myself. There are moments when I long for it with an urgency that is palpable. And the image that always comes to mind, that glues itself to my eyelids, is always the blue sky over the blue water. The sky and all its striations, the water in all its undulations — the blues catch my breath and hold me in their thrall.
But what I suddenly realize this morning is that here, at this place that holds so much of my heart, there are also greens. A myriad of greens. Kelly and hunter, jade and juniper, mint and avocado. There is the bright green of young pine needles and the deep, almost black green of magnolia leaves in shadow. There is the iridescent chartreuse of the marsh and the celadon of the Spanish moss. Chlorophyll, amazing in all its incarnations.
That realization morphs into the further epiphany that I probably — no, most assuredly — visualize other places, not to mention people and situations, in monochrome.
I pause deliberately to allow myself to feel the disappointment, the embarrassment, the regret.
When did I become satisfied with less than the box of 64? What is preventing me from reaching for aquamarine and mulberry, periwinkle and burnt sienna? And, most importantly, how quickly can I pour every single one of them out of the box and color their points down to nubs?