I will paint my picture, Paint myself in blue and red and black and gray. All of the beautiful colors are very very meaningful. You know, gray is my favorite color. I felt so symbolic yesterday. If I knew Picasso, I would buy myself a gray guitar and play….
Mr. Jones, Counting Crows, from the album August and Everything After
At the end of August, I was thinking about what comes after. I like the month of September. People seem generally happy, perhaps in part because the weather is pretty nice just about everywhere. However, as I am fond of saying, I like all the seasons equally, and I appreciate all types of weather. I have a “take it as it comes” attitude – if it snows, go skiing; if it rains, grab an umbrella and take a walk, or do something fun indoors. Soak up sunshine, but if it’s very hot then find a way to stay cool.
Many folks say fall is their favorite season, and it’s easy to understand why. The leaves changing colors on deciduous trees are lovely (no disrespect intended toward evergreens). New England does not have a monopoly on autumn beauty; I have experienced breathtaking, forested vistas of yellow, orange and red in many parts of the country. Even so, spring, summer and winter boast of their own charms, and one season need not be placed above any other.
I’m aware that I am contradicting myself, in a way, because I do enjoy playing favorites – with food, music, etc. Somehow, weather and the seasons escape that sort of game with me. Nevertheless, the people closest to me know that I am passionate about my favorites.
Recently, my daughter quizzed me about my favorite colors. I don’t recall the context of the conversation. Oddly, I found myself slightly annoyed at the question, as though even I grow bored with my rankings at times. Then, I smiled an inward smile and somewhat smugly set her up for what I consider my surprise answer.
“Oh, I like burgundy, navy blue, hunter green….”
These choices fit nicely with my love of fullness and richness in life, whether it be indulging in dark chocolate or a fancy high tea in Victoria, B.C.
And with that I had set the hook and was ready to reel in the line. I remembered at that moment that this was a post I needed to write.
“And, gray. I’ve always liked the color gray.”
Ha, whaddya think o’ them apples? Weird, huh? I mean, who says “gray”? I want to look this up, or conduct my own poll. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Pink. Even black, I’ll wager, ranks higher than gray in popularity! Am I just being a contrarian? A pessimist would say, “The sky is gray and cloudy.” An optimist would reply, “Be happy it’s not too sunny and hot!”
Seriously, this works on a number of levels.
Gray is like the comfort food of colors. Think of a nice pair of gray woolen slacks. Recently, at my nephew’s wedding, I was impressed that he and his bride-to-be picked yellow and gray as the color scheme for the wedding party – bridesmaids in yellow sun dresses, groomsmen in gray suits, white shirts, and yellow neckties. Yellow provided a perfect splash of inspiration, yet it was all the more striking when set against a backdrop of gray. The yin and the yang…
Silver is cool, silver is valuable, but within the color spectrum silver is just glorified, metallic gray. “But silver is flashy and interesting”, you might say. Well, not everyone wants to be flashy; some want to fly under the radar. Thus, gray is humble.
[Photo courtesy of Scott Cruickshank]
Fog is gray, and its coolness creeps around us as we walk in the trees and in the hills, and touches us in ways that inspire art, such as this poetic piece:
“The fog was where I wanted to be. Halfway down the path you can’t see this house. You’d never know it was here. Or any of the other places down the avenue. I couldn’t see but a few feet ahead. I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach, I even lost the feeling of being on land. The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.”
― Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Gray is the palate in which one of the world’s favorite photographers worked: Ansel Adams, who proved that the awesome beauty of nature can be captured in the crevices between black and white and the more brazen colors of the rainbow.
[Photo by Ansel Adams]
Nature does not short-change gray. If I could be another type of animal than human, I would like to be a dolphin, a sleek, intelligent animal. I endeavor to apply the acumen and perception of the dolphin as I surf along in my journey…
I do not typically see things as black and white. I see things in shades of gray. The more I experience, the more I notice the opposing sides of ideas and events. This tends to result in a state of questioning. It feels like a lack of conviction, but it is not so simple as that. There is a saying I have heard, something to the effect that, if you’re not confused, you probably don’t understand the problem. It’s a facetious way of saying that things are often more complicated than a 30-second sound bite on cable TV would have us believe. I know, I know, at times the opposite is true, and things are often more simple than we want to believe. Thus proving my point: things can be simple, and they can be complicated, all at the same time. Life is a mess. In short, it is gray.
I naturally distrust people who see things in black and white and as a result revel in the strength of their convictions. Gray is the devil’s advocate. Don’t get me wrong; there is definitely a time and a place for strong opinions based on clear-cut thinking. I believe leaders and executives in general often benefit from thinking more in black and white. Paralysis of analysis, which may go hand in hand with gray areas, is a real pitfall or danger inherent in some activities, such as conducting military operations. No doubt, decisive thinking based on a clear vision that the enemy is right in front of you has real advantages.
However, when it comes to policy-making and politics, I do believe that awareness and tolerance of many viewpoints – the many and varied shades of gray in which subjective opinions present themselves – is more palatable to my mind and more conducive to intelligent decision-making. Beware of politicians who claim to have all the answers! Beware of all of them, anyway, when it comes right down to it.
I will not conclude by saying “Yay for gray!”, because gray does not celebrate itself or attract undue attention. My message is simply, yes, enjoy excitement and the richness of life, stop and smell the colorful roses, but also take time to appreciate subtlety and nuance, the flip side, the shadows and the space between….