Sunday, September 29, 2013

Brightness amidst the gray

This is a two-part story.

Part I: Grayness.
Part II: Color.

But I am going to reveal the end result here (right). This is how I got there.

I walk my dogs a lot. Lunchtime walks are usually an hour to an hour and a half. That means I cover a lot of territory. It also means I see a lot of houses. Particularly in the winter, but even into spring when the gray days linger and linger and linger, everything seems dull, drab and bedraggled to me. I walk along in the rain, in the chill. The clouds are too close, everything feels sad and ugly, and as I walk, I see a gray house, a light blue house, a tan house. Then: vaguely green, white-ish blue, then brown-ish, yellow-ish, blue-ish--and for god's sake--there's a house painted Seattle gray (a real paint color). Next, I look to the streets and a gray car passes. Then a white one, silvery, cream, black....It's as if an entire fleet of cars has driven straight off a rental lot. Nothing bold. Nothing stands out.

I nearly jump up and down when I see a red house or a red car. There's a cobalt house about 20 minutes away. And every now and then there are deep autumnal oranges and mustards. I pass a ridiculous bright pink house on one street. One house I pass has golden columns in the front. These houses make me enormously happy. I feel lucky to look out my own house window and see a chili pepper red house in one direction, a deep French blue in another, and a barn red in another direction.

So I started thinking about making a statement with our detached garage, which has been needing to be painted for several years. It was painted only 8 years ago, and the color was originally matched to the house, but it faded very quickly.

Our house is yellow. And granted, it is not boldly sunflower yellow, but a slightly deep butter yellow. I want to believe it does not fit in the same category in which I lump 99% of the rest of the houses in this gray world of ours. But it doesn't really have a big spark. So, the garage offered an opportunity. I wanted to not just go bold, but create a work of art that passersby might gasp at upon first seeing it. And, like me, when I walk by again and again, feel bedazzled and inexplicably happy, even on the blah-est days of the year.

I had big plans. And many plans. First: calligraphy. I wanted to write something pithy--a wonderful poem or quote--on the garage door. Then I was going to do that on the entire east wall of the garage. Then I wanted only to engulf the walls in color. And that's when the ombre idea was hatched.

Ombre is the effect of one color gradating to another. Or it can be several colors that meld from one to the next. I wanted orange. Deep, glowing orange.

Here's the catch. I painted only two walls in this ombre effect. The back wall, that only we can see because it faces our backyard, and the east wall. The back of our garage, the north wall, is to the left.

The first photo, at the beginning, and the photos, to the right and below, are of the east wall. And here's the trick: that wall faces a huge garden that is filled with foliage from various shrubs and trees so it can't be seen from the street. At least, not yet. The second photo of the east wall, right, is taken from the other direction. You can see a bit of the red cottage at the back of my neighbor's house. Hooray for that chili pepper brightness at the end of our backyard. 

And the final photo of that wall is taken from an upstairs window and shows the other red house across the street. This view of our bright wall and their red house enthralls me.

But, back to this trickery of our east wall and its hidden brightness. I am looking forward to the leaves falling this year just so that those driving and walking by will have a gorgeous surprise waiting for them. I want to un-gray this world. I want to live in a glow. After a most stupendous summer, there's no denying what's in store. So I'm coming prepared for winter.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Everything has its season

[Originally posted November 30, 2009] I recently had a Facebook discussion about pumpkin pie. I love it so much I started eating it nearly a week before Thanksgiving, which led to the confession that I really want to eat it when pumpkins are first harvested, which led to others saying, forget that, pumpkin pie is soooo scrumpch that we should eat it year round.

I was reminded of this discussion when I was out in the garden during the Thanksgiving weekend and bid adieu to the tied-up thick hairy masses of Siberian iris fronds, the dry stalks of echinacea, the browning feathers of coreopsis foliage. And there amidst the dark quiet garden were the late-blooming kaffir lily, their watermelon-candy-colored blooms almost a shock. Three white Shasta daisies held their blossoms high, the scabiosa, or pincushion flower, were sending out mighty stalks, and a few lavender stems were bright against the long-ago spent ones.

Despite the fact that I seem to be in some crazy kind of love with every blossom, stalk, shrub, berry, and leaf I cultivate, I still love the turning of the wheel and wouldn't want the daylilies blooming in October or the dahlias blasting in March. Just as I know, deep down, pumpkin pie seems right only in late November and fresh strawberries in June and July. I think it's partly the anticipation, and then, the amazing re-awakening: the sweetest burst of a flavor nearly forgotten because it's been a whole year. What could possibly be so special about nectarines at the end of the summer if you can eat them in January? How ordinary pumpkin pie would be if you ate it any time of year. Can you possibly eat a peppermint stick in the summer? For me, peppermint means December and not even a mint from a restaurant tastes right unless it's winter.

If someone did offer me pumpkin pie in April, I probably wouldn't refuse a bite, but I would be transported to dark late autumn days and a time set aside for giving thanks...thanks, too, for those last bursts of garden surprises, seemingly slightly out of season. They'll be gone soon enough and already I am wondering which crocuses will be the first to bloom.