Posts Tagged ‘colors’

My favorite colors are the colors of the sea, blue and gray and green, depending on the weather. My brother William is a fisherman, and he tells me that when he is in the middle of a fog-bound sea the water is a color for which there is no name.

—Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan

When I was a child, I read this book – slim and spare, with a pale pink cover – over and over again. I loved the story of Sarah, who comes from Maine to the wide plains of the Midwest, to be a new wife for Jacob and a stepmother for Anna and Caleb. She brings her cat, Seal, and they all learn to live with one another. The children, who have never seen the sea, listen enthralled to Sarah’s stories about Maine.

My beloved Neponset river trail, here in Dorchester, winds along marshes and brush and through several public parks, with views of water and trees (and also bridges and roads). Nearly every time I’m out there, especially when it’s overcast, I think of Sarah’s words, the rhythm of them: blue and gray and green.

Katie trail blue gray water


The water is sometimes blue, of course, though it’s often gray (the same goes for the sky). The grass and trees are greening up, right now, and the broken slabs of granite along the shoreline are always gradations of gray. Sometimes the sky glows pink or orange, streaked with sunset fire or smudged with purple. Sometimes, the light on the water glitters gold.

In the winter, the trail is often edged – occasionally submerged – with fresh white snow, turning the color scheme into blue and white and brown. But in all other seasons, it is blue and gray and green. The combinations shift, depending on the weather. I have run it in all seasons, in bright morning sunlight and pitch winter dark and every time of day in between, and I love noticing the changes, subtle brushstrokes shifting with the light and the time of year.

My favorite color, as most people know, has long been red – and I’ve not lost my love for a bright flash of scarlet or deep crimson. But my favorite landscape, these days, is blue and gray and green.


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A word about the color scheme in Tolkien’s books…I just finished a page in which Legolas talks about the golden trees, the mallorn (plural mellyrn) in Lothlorien. “In the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey.” This is one example of the use of earth tones, so prevalent in Tolkien’s work…I suppose it makes a greater impact because I’ve seen the movies and have visual images of the colors used by the filmmakers. Even from the books alone, though, the reader gets a sense of a world in greens, browns, blues and greys. There are splendid, rich reds and golds in the halls of kings, but even they are never harshly bright; they too seem tied to the earth.

With our bright, plastic, pop-culture sensibility, one would think we would find a green-and-grey world shadowy, but I love taking a dip into the freshness of Tolkien’s colours, a break from the bubble-gum brightness of store windows. The races of Middle-earth are tied to the land, and the colours of their clothes, armor and dwellings show their affinity for it. Have we moved too far away from that mindset with our store-bought dyes? Would we feel more at home with the earth if we let its colours permeate our lives?

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