In addition to seeing full-blown bursts of fire; during our recent travels my children noticed ephemeral wonders of nature.
As we sat awaiting takeoff from Osaka, my pyrokinetic son looked out the window and saw an unusual, pastel rainbow, wide and arched more acutely than any I’d seen before. He pointed it out and I looked quickly at it. But by the time I told my other son to take a look and glanced that way again, the rainbow had disappeared, although the plane had not moved.
From the time my children were very young, they have been obsessed with science. They gathered information clustered around scientific topics–oceanography, geology, magnetism, astronomy, weather systems. They taught me about black holes and red giants and even lemon muons. They taught me about light and color.
In our family it was not the children who asked me why the sky is blue; it was they who explained such things to me.
ROYGBIV was a favorite Bill Nye topic: the acronym and mnemonic device for the colors of the rainbow.
Like everything else, my sense of color, as well as light, seems to have changed. My husband was a man of vibrant color, but our experiences as a family during the last months of his life seem to have pared my color palette to blacks and grays, and the blinding white within which all colors coalesce. In this realm, too, everything is tinted and altered.
In red, especially deep garnet, I still cannot help but see the blood that speckled my husband’s skin, flattened like tiny coins on the underside of the adhesive strips that coiled to seal IV needles into the strong hand that still bore his wedding band.
The reds Jim would want me to see are something else entirely: the worn crimson of his Portsmouth Clipper Band baseball cap; the scarlet orb of an enormous summer moon that took my breath away as I rounded a curve in Massachusetts; the Japanese maple he planted and that now, inexplicably, has bloomed into a distinct heart shape; the background against which he photographed our daughter on a tiny island at the Equator, where the foliage turns vermilion for seasons of each year to adapt and thrive.
Orange is strangely bereft of scarring memories: that my husband was last outside, with all of us around him, supporting him, to see an orange perigee moon is among the most peaceful visions I have of those last days.
It is difficult to conceive of orange as an unhappy color, and its loud association with our alma mater–the place where we met–gives it a special place in my heart.
But yellow carries with it an unpleasantly-scented memory of the lingering antibacterial wash applied to skin before surgery; of bruising; of bile. Its emotional counterpoint can be found in our daughter’s affinity for buttercup yellow; the daisies merrily and plentifully sprouting, countless mementos of my failure to keep the yard in order; Jim’s daffodils, still flowering.
Green and blue seem to be the colors at our family’s core. I think of them as Jim’s colors. To say they are our favorites would do little to distinguish them or do them justice.
At his Closing Ceremonies, Jim’s guitar teacher accompanied Sweet Baby James, a beautifully-sung song in which many of the hundreds of people in attendance softly sang the refrain: “Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose/Won’t you let me go down in my dreams. . . .”
These are the colors of the outdoors, of the sky and sea and forests and mountains Jim loved so much.
Indigo and violet join those deep greens, turning to teals and blues at the edges–not far from the part of the spectrum where un-oxygenated deep blue blood runs to purple, and I can envision the last sunsets we saw together. I can see the indigo-black of the silver-sprinkled night sky under which Jim sometimes slept, having rigged a hammock so he could look at the stars as he drifted into the sleep that always came so easily to him–at a time when he would still awaken, as his memories “would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw [him] up out of the abyss of not-being.”
I feel like a keeper of Jim’s memories, and cannot imagine letting go of that rope.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon