Friday, August 30, 2013

GREEN – As If for the First Time

When I was a boy, I loved coloring with crayons. There was something about how they looked, those neat little cylinders with their tight paper wrappers and slick, lathe-turned tips. And the way they smelled—it still takes me back to those purer, simpler days.

Most of all, I loved the colors, those waxy, translucent hues that seemed to channel light through themselves rather than just reflecting it.

            I guess I knew, even then, that this 
            is a world of many greens.

I soon tired of the basic 8-color Crayola sets. Those, I figured, were for little kids who still scribbled across their coloring books. No, I coveted the big 64-color boxes, the ones with neatly stepped tiers of crayons in subtler colors, shades falling in between the basic, primary colors. These were colors worthy of staying within the lines.

What I remember most are the greens—not just plain old green, but the other, more complex, delicious ones: blue green, yellow green, pine green, spring green, olive green and sea green. I don’t know if the other kids cared, but I did. I guess I knew, even then, that this is a world of many greens.

It's awfully easy to take green for granted. After all, for many human beings—not just those who live in jungles, but us who live in places where grassy lawns and lush, deciduous trees are valued—the color is everywhere.

Just this morning, as I drove to my office, I conducted a little experiment. I took a series of virtual snapshots of my vistas from the car. Then I calculated the percentage of each image that was green. Incredibly, it ranged from about 30 to nearly 70 percent. There was nowhere I could look where green was not a significant part of the view. And that’s right in the middle of a big city.

With this much of it in sight, no wonder we fail to appreciate green. It's like how people eventually forget about the natural and cultural attractions closest to home, ones a tourist wouldn't think of missing.

...from the whispered pastel green of hydrangea blossom to the edgy chartreuse of spring willow.

In that drive to the office this morning, it struck me as never before how that abundance of green pleases my eye and feeds my spirit. It's not just how much there is, but how many delicious flavors it comes in—like my 64-color box of crayons and then some.

From the just-becoming green of leaves’ first unfurling, to the heavy, weary green of late summer. From the deep coolness of those shady recesses between blue spruce boughs to the dusty gray-green of Russian olive. From the whispered pastel green of lichen or hydrangea blossom to the edgy chartreuse of spring willow.

As more and more research is done on the effects of mankind’s increasing disconnect with Nature, studies are showing that proximity to green foliage—even if it’s only in the view out your window—has a measurable, positive effect on your level of stress, your state of well-being, even your productivity.

         Imagine how it would be to wake 
         up one morning and find it all gone.

So why does green affect us this way? Is it because it represents everything that grows and nourishes us? Might we associate it with the amazing symbiosis between animals and plants where each depends on what the other exhales? Does it remind us of the African landscape where our very humanity was born? 

I suspect very few folks stop to appreciate the incredible scope and range of greens that decorate their daily comings and goings. It’s a bit easier for those of us in northern climes, who lose most of our green for about five months of the year. We know what we’re missing. So do people who live in desert or semi-arid places where greens are scarce and short-lived.

So, even if you’re blessed with year-round green, take a moment to imagine how it would be to wake up one morning and find it all gone. Start right now, with what you can see from where you sit. Look around; look out the window. Make a point of noticing this verdant color of life in all its many tones and textures.

What are your favorite greens? How does green make you feel? Have you ever lived in a place where you felt starved of those feelings?


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