It was gray today, unseasonably warm, the world around me a stark palette of snowy white and the near blackness of rain-soaked, leafless trees. I always loved the idea of “the pathetic fallacy” in my life as an English major; it seemed right and just that nature should reflect the gray-brown bruise of heartbreak or the candy colors of elation. This morning as I walked into the woods trailing the gaily swishing backside of an imperious Welsh Corgi, the non-colors mirrored my emotions, corseted and muzzled of necessity.
A tree full of mourning doves changed nothing, but then a cardinal, a scarlet male fierce-beaked and dramatic in his occupation of a branch changed everything. I saw, then, the most incisive of blues asserting itself through the mashed potato cloud cover. I felt the pull of three, no, four red berries weighting an elegant black arc of branch and spent too much time framing them with a crooked square made of my inadequate fingers.
It had seemed so seductive, the universe that fit so neatly with my studied emptiness. The colors, though, insisted on finding some counterparts in my soul. I found myself comparing the red of the cardinal to the red of the berries, and the blue of the sky to the wing of a blue jay, and I had to sit down and close my eyes. Sitting on my “thinking log,” a sanctuary since second grade, I heard the sound of myself as a child rattling down the nearby hill on a red, plastic “saucer.” I saw my fuchsia jacket with its snowflake zipper pull, and the crimson blood when I ran into a tree on a sled, my fingers smashed between guide bar and rough, black bark. I was on the sled with the first boy I loved, and even though it was his fault that we had run into the tree, I reassured him between snotty, gulping sobs that I was okay.
Eyes still closed, I felt the Corgi press her sharp, wet nose into my palm. “It’s okay,” I reassured her, “Just a few more minutes.” She waddled off in search of dropped food and decaying fauna, and I closed my eyes again and willed the colors back. I offered myself a patch of bluest sky, and soon I saw piles of Indian sari fabric in a chaos of blues and greens, a pile of silk slippers in Marrakech gleaming in pumpkin, saffron, goldenrod and pomegranate. I wanted to eat them alive, the colors; I wanted to warm myself too much near the yellow-orange flames of a bonfire and then float in the cool blue-green of a wind-rough lake. I wanted to taste the brown flavor of good hot chocolate, the green bite of lime, and the complex purply flavor of a Concord grape.
I wanted to live.
The world had tricked me, luring me in with the contained muteness of snow and branch, and then tempting me with morsels of color so delicious and ecstatic that I could not but embrace them. I could not but embrace them, or the pulsating, messy tumble of life that comes from the opening, and softening of a jagged, tin can heart.
And this mess, this glorious bloody mess with its deep green pine trees and yellow rain slickers is the inside of me made manifest. I was not made for a muted palette. I was born for orange scarves, acid green coats, turquoise high tops and a soul that gives off icy blue sparks. I was destined for that. I was designed to live big, juicy, vibrant, fearless, carmine, viridian, and cerulean.
I was designed to live.