Friday, January 7, 2011

On Seeking the Color Red

"There's something stuck out there in the front yard," my wife said as she came in the back door.

"What are you talking about?" I asked interested, but not alarmed. After all my wife didn't sound upset, just a bit mystified.

"It's in the bushes," she continued, standing on her toes at the kitchen sink to see if she could make out the mystery object through the window. "I don't know what it is. It's impaled. It looked like a piece of paper."

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One can be assured that my wife is not a nagger or a composer of honey dew lists. So there will be no marital drama ensuing from her sighting in which she expected a certain response from me and I failed to perform it. She had simply noticed the anomaly in our brown-yellow winter landscape while pulling the car into the garage.

She wanted to share why this particular piece of ubiquitous windblown piece of garbage out of all the windblown garbage in our rather untidy burg seemed a bit different from all others.

"It's red," she said.

"I'll check on it," I said.

The "Thing" in the Yard
As I stepped out the front door the first thing I noticed was the wind. It was from the south, the one the Greeks called Notos, and it was blowing hard.

Wind is not unusual in these parts. Cold weather blows down from the north. Then nature reverses itself and the Gulf of Mexico forces warmer air up from the south. Or the Pacific has its way and blows its tempestuous tidings in from the west. The only consistency is that if you live here on the open prairie, more often than not, there will be wind. Lots of it. No gentle breezes these, they are gusty and laden with grit.

With the wind whipping at my back I headed toward the garden area beneath the trees. At first I didn't see anything. I thought, Hmm, perhaps the wind blew the red thing to its next destination.

Then I passed a tree that was blocking my view. Ah, yes. There it was.

The red piece of paper. Windblown. Snagged.
I retrieved it and headed into the roar of the wind. I didn't look at the paper to find out what it was until later.

A Search for Red
Lately this visual red note that the wind played  in my life has caused me to notice something that previously I remained unaware of.

Red is a relatively rare color in our home.

Once I started my inventory of colors I identified plenty of browns and beiges and whites and even some black among our possessions and decor. But red? It was not so popular. On the other hand, what little red I could uncover seemed, in its uniqueness, to really stand out.

Tick tock. Red resides beside the bed.

Red is in the "C" in C-r-e-s-t whenever I brush my teeth.

Reliable red light tells me we're ready for incoming calls.

Red leaps out in our Tlingit Indian-style carving
we brought with us from Alaska years ago.

Red espresso cup waits in the kitchen.

This red file folder for years has housed our "important papers."

Red envelope that is nearly always present in our household.

Red paper flower our son made for Mom on Mother's Day.

The relative rarity of red in my life is as I think it should be. The color red is about eliciting excitement which is counter to everyday domestic tranquility. In fact, the main occasion of red in our home occurs at Christmas when it becomes all right for emotions to amp up a bit in order to offset the gray days of winter.

Right now I can look around right now and see the depleted poinsettia plants still camped out in pots on the fireplace hearth and a ceramic Santa collection and a dozen red ornaments that going on two weeks after the holiday haven't quite found their way back into storage. As the new year slides toward the ordinary I have to admit that the holiday's residual red seems an off-key reminder of what is emphatically past.

Humans don't seem to be made to live with constant excitement. This could explain why we don't dwell in red cities and men don't wear red suits or red jackets (except Michael Jackson in the Billie Jean video) and women may use red lipstick but do not paint themselves with red eye shadow (or is Lady Gaga thinking about changing that?) and most of us don't drive red cars.

We hoard our reds and dispense them when we need a lift or stimulation.

The Red-velation
Eventually I took a closer look at the piece of paper I had brought into the house. It was, as the previous front yard photo shows, blank on one side, but flipping it over I discovered writing. I suspected it was an advertisement of some kind. Then I read it and was disabused of this notion.

What I had in hand was a special message blown forth on the wind. A message that had been fashioned, in part, by someone named "Kambree."

I have no idea who Kambree is. I have a feeling she's a little girl who is pre-kindergarten age and that's why she's obediently cut out pictorial representations of words rather than was asked to fill in the blanks with actual words.

I wonder about the adhesive tape at the top of the piece of paper. Was Kambree's handiwork once taped to a refrigerator door and then removed at the end of the Christmas season? Or was the paper taped to a front door and the wind blew it loose? Where does Kambree live? Down the street? Or in another city far from here?

These are questions your intrepid Van Winkled reporter is unequipped to answer. All I can say is that a red piece of paper bearing an age-old message chose to unexpectedly and brightly land in my front yard. In the absence of TV screens, newspapers, etc. an event like this is enough to pass for news these days. One more jolt of red? Why not? I think I'll hang on to it. - V.W.


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