Redefining “Vivid”

Every time we visit the tropics I’m struck anew by the boldness of the colors of the native flora. They redefine “vivid.” Especially after a monochromatic midwestern winter, a short sojourn in the tropics reawakens the visual senses.

Is it any wonder that Gauguin found inspiration on an island? Were ever reds so red, or purples so purple?

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Shore Colors

Kish and I are off to the shore for a quick weekend visit. I love the colors and designs that you see in shoreline cottages and cabins — the yellows, the greens, the nautical grays, the checkerboard tile patterns, and all of the other little touches that tell you that you’re in a place where nobody gives a crap about formality and fun and whimsy can come to the fore.

It’s easier to mentally relax when all of the visual, physical cues are sending that same, consistent message.

Chromophobia

Crayola recently announced that it is putting a new color in its box of 24 crayons.  (That’s the standard box that smelled great when you opened it as a kid, not the overpowering big box of 64 crayons that used to have a crayon sharpener hole on the back side that never really worked right.)

crayola-crayon-new-color-03-ht-jef-170913_4x3_992The new color is a shade that Crayola has decided to call “bluetiful.”  The new color is based on a hue, called YinMn, that scientists accidentally discovered while experimenting with electronics materials.  And because a 24-crayon box can only have 24 crayons by definition, the decision to add a new color means that an old color is hitting the cutting room floor.  In this instance, the replaced color is dandelion — presumably, a shade of yellow — that joins mulberry, teal blue, magic mint and other “retired colors” in the “Crayola Hall of Fame.”

I groaned when I read this news.  Don’t scientists have enough to do without discovering new colors?  Don’t scientists know that there are people out there, like me, who think we have too many colors already?  We not only can’t remember where certain colors fall on the color spectrum, which means we never fully grok deep conversations about the outfits people are wearing — hey, is “citron” a kind of yellow, or a green, or something else? — we can’t even distinguish the fine gradations in hues that are presented to us when it comes time to decide on paint colors.  We are shown tiny squares of colors like “coastal gray” and “cloud” as potential “accent colors” and they already look pretty much the same.  God help us if scientists discover even more tints of light gray in between.  And now there’s bluetiful, elbowing its way onto the blue color palette that is already crowded with colors like sky blue, royal blue, ocean blue, and azure blue.

So I guess I’ve got chromophobia, and the fact that I’m somewhat colorblind doesn’t help, either.  I look at “bluetiful,” and it’s all blues to me.

Easy Bein’ Green

You can argue about the season in which rural Ohio is at its best.  Throw out winter — of course! — and you could argue endlessly about the lush springs, the blue sky summer days, and the colors and tastes of autumn.

Spring, of course, has its own colors — they’re just more subtle.  Standing on Cousin Jeff’s elevated deck, looking out at the trees and plants and fallen pine needles and grass, you see just about every shade of green you can imagine.  Couple it with cool air that smells of growing plants and bright songs from a number of different birds, and you’ve got a feast for the senses.

Kermit the Frog would fit right in.

Tropical Colors

  
When you get to the tropics, you get bright sunshine — and bright colors.  The brighter the better!  No boring beige here, thank you very much!  We’ll go for lurid pinks and purples, lemons and greens, and pastels as far as the eye can see.  They are a better match for the aquamarine water and green plants and deep blue sky.  

Whether it’s a seaside beer joint or a resort like Old Bahama Bay, everyone adheres to the Bahamas palette.  The color scheme is so prevalent that, when we walked past a house painted a staid gray yesterday we shook our heads and thought:  “What were they thinking?”

  

Colorblind

Yesterday, as part of a physical exam, I was given a test to determine whether I had any issues in detecting different hues on the color spectrum — i.e., whether I was colorblind.  It’s odd, but even though I’m 58 years old, am badly nearsighted, and have worn glasses since kindergarten, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a test for colorblindness.

The test involved looking through one of those devices you use at the optometrist’s office, where you peer into a kind of binocular unit, pictures are projected on the other end, and you identify letters or describe pictures.  In this case, the pictures were of four circles filled with dots of different colors.  The color patterns established by the different dots were each supposed to form distinguishable numbers.

IMG_3030I saw the number 11 in the first circle, but the other three just looked like totally random aggregations of differently colored dots to me.  Try as I might, I couldn’t see any patterns or numbers — even to guess at — in the other three circles.  Even when the nurse administering the test helpfully told me that there was a 26 in the second circle, I couldn’t see it.  After the test was over, the nurse advised that my eyes were not correctly processing oranges and greens.

When I told Kish about these results, she nodded knowingly.  She’s often commented on my inability to recognize the true colors of the outfits she’s wearing — and not just in discerning the subtle differences between similar colors like periwinkle and lavender, either.  Sometimes I’ll call a color gray and she’ll say it’s brown, or vice versa.  The test just confirms what she’s always suspected is the case.

It’s weird to have belated evidence that I am partially colorblind.  It’s not going to affect my work — I’ll always be able to see black and white words on a page or computer screen — but it makes me wonder.  When I look at a pumpkin, like the pumpkins in this photo I took last year, I see what I’ve always understood to be orange.  If it’s not orange, what color am I seeing, really, and what does orange actually look like?  And when I look at trees or grass and see what I perceive to be lush greens, am I just seeing pale echoes of the true verdant colors?  I find myself wondering now:  what have I been missing?