Adding a touch of color to life

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2002

After days of gray skies and silver rain, one learns to appreciate the colors nature provides when she is in the mood. Driving in the county - lost again, of course –

I watched the landscape go by in shades of dusty green. A sudden motion caught my eye as an eastern bluebird darted from the hedge. The sun shone iridescent indigo off the bird's back. As it wheeled and flew past me, I could see the delicate rose coloring of its throat. Just the colors made me smile – what a lovely touch to my day.

This, of course, led to a general meandering of thoughts about colors and their affects on us. There's the gender bias in color - how many pro football teams use pink? And the age bias - how many elderly men wear lime green - when they aren't on the golf course? The bride wears white and mourners wear black, and

in olden days, the only women who wore red were those we don't speak of in polite society.

Yet a lot of these color biases are culture specific. In some Asian countries, the bride wears red and mourners wear white. In Queen Elizabeth's Day, red was considered her signature color and no one could wear it without her express permission. Other nobility chose purple, giving rise to the expression "Born to the Purple."

Colors splash through our vocabulary like a Jackson Pollack painting. We are green with envy, red-faced, yellow dogs, black-hearted, and occasionally blue.

We develop a liking for, or loathing of, certain colors. My husband avoids green unless its one of his plants. No green clothing ("It makes me look sallow"), no green upholstery, no green fixtures. He saves his green for the great outdoors.

I love green. I wasn't aware of how much I missed it until I set up my own little house and began to buy the necessary things - towels, plates, a tablecloth. When I arrived at the checkout , I finally noticed that everything in my cart was green. Dark green, hunter green, green and blue, and green and yellow. By the time the family moves down and we set up another house, I may have gotten out of my system, but I don't think so.

There are those other colors that jump out of us - the first yellow crocus poking through the snow, the last fuchsia azalea bloom hidden behind the waxy green, the sharp red check mark on a report card.

Some colors prompt strong emotions - ask a 'Bama fan when he sees orange, for instance. In the 1970s, many restaurants redecorated in bright colors because studies showed they made people eat faster and eat more.

Some colors prompt memories, like the pale, silvery shade of lavender-blue that was your grandmother's hair color, or a smudge of brownish-yellow that was your son's first adventure with strained carrots, still staining the kitchen wall.

Some colors, like a mother-of-pearl sunset, or a bluebird's back shining on a gray day, simply prompt a smile.