Friday, May 15, 2009

Color: Brown

Brown is my new black. Brown was my mother: her hair color before it went prematurely white as the result of aggressive chemotherapy; the color of her deep watery eyes that could make you confess to things you didn’t do or raise you up over insurmountable doubts, depending on what you needed in the moment. Brown was the not grey color of our two colored English Short Hair hunting dogs (Twiggy I and Twiggy II) we had when I was growing up. Brown are my eyes, when they are not green or flecked with yellow. Brown is the color of coffee even if you order it black. Brown is a wedgie and things organic.

Wikipedia lists among the common connotations for brown: nature; earth; soil; skin; classicism; ancient philosophy; knowledge; maple leaf; chocolate; caramel and peace. I always thought peace was blue. Or, at the very least, green. I imagine a brown peace is only tentative or temporary. Complete peace is translucent: free of even color. The step beyond blue, or green. Brown peace is a heavier peace. One rooted in the muck and mud of the earth. Perhaps a peace borne of tolerance, rather than freedom.

Brown was the color of my husband’s thick hair, until it too turned prematurely white. His beautiful deep brown eyes surrounded by even thicker black/brown eyelashes, he got from his mother. Brown is now the color of betrayal and anguish. Brown is coming to peace with that. Brown is my tolerance and I embrace it. Brown is the thickening of skin that protects and mutes and is more real than black. It is not black and white for me. Brown and creamy white: that fits me better in almost all things.

Brown smells like chocolate. And mud. Earth. Nuts. And skin. Nothing synthetic smells like brown. Brown smells comfortable, like leather and tea bags. Brown is the suburbs. Or the forest. Not the green and yellow of the country, nor the black and red of the city.

Brown whispers to me in dreams, when the dreams are neither terror driven, nor untethered. Brown holds me and still lets me see. Brown is James Brown singing I Feel Good (I Got You) and it makes me smile because I Feel Good surrounded by brown. Brown is the color of wet wood and in the scent released from that wet wood. Brown is the undergrowth in the forest before the recent rain has forced growth. Brown is never rock hard: there is always some give when you hit it.

Brown is a paper bag filled with mystery; a package delivery company with good looking men in shorts; the color a banana shouldn’t turn; a recluse spider, poisonous and creepy; the nose of the boys that will break the glass ceiling.

One of the coolest things about brown is its chameleon like skills of appearing to change color based on what surrounds it. For example

The brown and orange disks of color are objectively identical, in identical gray surrounds, in this image; their perceived color categories depend on what white they are compared to. (Picture from Wikipedia)

Try to notice everything (and I mean everything including things and smells and textures and nouns as well as verbs) that are brown around you today.

Brown is not a story or poem yet. Just an idea. It’s too hard to pin down.

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