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Yesterday, I strolled through a market in Carrboro, NC, visiting friends on the last arc of a three-week trip to the east coast. I quickly became obsessed with the colors of summer’s bounty, perhaps to the quiet embarrassment of the 11-year-old who graciously accompanied me. Yet piled upon folding tables, the rainbow of fruits and vegetables demanded my attention, and I joyously snapped pictures, taking only a casual pause here and there to sample the wares and actually make a purchase or two.

These are apparently called Fairy Tale Eggplant; naturally, I imagine teeny castles nestled deep within.

These are apparently called Fairy Tale Eggplant; naturally, I imagine teeny castles nestled deep within.

As I darted from one farmer’s stand to the next, I found myself marveling at the array of colors offered by the heat and sun of this season. Nature throws together combinations of colors that would never occur to me to put next to each other.

Could a living room decorated in these colors ever replicate the beauty of this prettiest of tomato piles?

Could a living room decorated in these colors ever replicate the beauty of this prettiest of tomato piles?

The magic of color is something I think about fairly often. I don’t understand how it all happens, and don’t want to; I’m amazed by artists like my brother, who undertake the monumental task of capturing color and how it changes. My contribution to the world, in this way, is simply as an observer. On a pretty regular basis, I stop in my tracks to marvel at, say, a trove of hydrangeas in that blue-purple that never exists quite as well outside of nature, or the way that wild grasses transform with the movement of a breeze.

Old Baldy overlooks the changing landscape colors under a sunset sky.

Old Baldy overlooks the changing landscape colors under a sunset sky.

I think of it – and yes, I know this is cheesy – as a gift that nature offers to us, every day, without fail, even when it’s gray and rainy outside. The surprise of a sudden burst of color against a monochromatic background reminds me to be present, and to be grateful. It almost always brightens my spirit: the world is alive and laughing.

Shells on a sandy beach convince me that I’m a novice at the task of naming colors.

Shells on a sandy beach convince me that I’m a novice at the task of naming colors.

Want to see what I mean? Try it yourself. Head outside. Notice your world.

Don’t forget to wave back to the gnome when you get outside.

Don’t forget to wave back to the gnome when you get outside.

After a minute or two, focus in on the colors. How many shades of green are on a single tree? Is the sky heavy with dark clouds or wide open and clear blue? What about the flowers: are they tropical pinks and oranges, wistful pastels, optimistic yellows? Notice the cars, the houses, the buildings, the park benches, the cautionary signs, the glimpse of your own skin as you glance to your feet, perhaps clad in some color shoe or another. As you look around, let yourself be in awe of the world, of all these hues nuzzling up against one another. Can you even count them?

Sunsets are always good for a color challenge.

Sunsets are always good for a color challenge.

It’s daunting and wonderful to try and capture each and every shade that can exist in a single snapshot of life.

Several shades of blue; white checks on the tablecloth; orange and yellow tomatoes with a touch of green; and the outline of turquoise baskets makes this picture come alive for me.

Several shades of blue; white checks on the tablecloth; orange and yellow tomatoes with a touch of green; and the outline of turquoise baskets makes this picture come alive for me.

For my part: I glance out my window, somewhere on the flight between North Carolina and California, and see bright, white clouds below me, interrupted by an oozing blue that fills in every last crevice.

IMG_0487

Perhaps people on the ground below this plane are planning for rain; up here, though, we’ve got clear skies ahead. I can’t really imagine what I’ll see when we land; I know that the world will be waiting, offering up its beauty and asking me, only, to take notice, pay attention, and enjoy.

Can you catch them all, even the rainbows of the crepuscular rays?

Can you catch all of the colors, even within the rainbows of the crepuscular rays?

And that’s a challenge I can gratefully accept.

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