I’ve been reflecting about the use of color in writing about the natural world recently. The poems that I’ve published have been about autumn. At the peak of the season, the trees truly are a riot of color, warm and rich. As writers, I know that our mood moderates our responses, modulates our listening to the language nature speaks during a particular season. During periods of depression or grief we can be so emotionally numb that it seems impossible to respond to beauty in words. I think this is especially heard for a person who finds much of their identity in their own art. But in my experience, sometimes a particular mood actually illuminates my creativity from a different perspective. As I let myself be guided in written reflection about where I am emotionally or spiritually at that point, sometimes something small can catch my attention, I can start what turns into a piece, and be drawn out of myself to something much bigger, something of human experience. Winter can be a hard time for me. It is beautiful, but sometimes bleak here in the depths of winter. Black and white and all their shades. There is beauty in that. But after a long period unrelieved by sunshine, it can become wearing, exhausting. In the nearby countryside, I often pass a small farm with a small white clapboard farmhouse and red barn. It has a beauty I take for granted sometimes as I watch the farmland turn with the seasons. The bright barn red is just another bright, wonderful color among other bright, beautiful colors. But in the winter, within the starkness of the landscape, the red stands out clearly, almost startling in its richness in contrast. And gradually I realized that every time I passed it, I felt happy. Maybe for just a fleeting few seconds until my mind was again overtaken with gray. But sometimes, the experience actually gave me a perspective about change and continuity. Bleakness passes. Peace and safety will return. I may not feel that in my heart at such a time, but I know it in my head. It can help. Sometimes a lot. Because in an even larger sense, the lives of almost everyone, have their turnings. Out of my love of this little farm, I was able to start with description and without intention, but I found something more profound and meaningful to me. And perhaps to a reader. Where have I gone with this? Well, my subject appears to have been capturing nature in color. That’s where I began. But somehow I’ve ended up here, I’m not quite sure how. But it feels right.
In a separate post, I’m putting my poem Leeward, prompted by a flash of red against black and white. It appeared in 2012 in The Broad River Review, where I was a Finalist for the Rash Award for Poetry. I hope you enjoy it.