The gray outside has invaded my apartment’s interior. I’m wearing gray pajamas, and an oversized gray wool sweater that I bought at H&M. It’s meant to look handknit although I’m pretty sure it was made by a metal machine. I know for sure that it looks less like a misshapen sack when it’s worn not over pjs, with a wide belt, say over leggings. But they haven’t turned the heat on in my building yet and I’m cold, and the sweater’s warm. So the color of the day is gray.
So this got me to thinking about gray, a color I actually like a great deal, even though it has more than its share of negative connotations: it’s a color that’s wishy-washy, uncertain, unclear. Even its spelling is unsettled: do you spell it with an “a” or an “e”?
But there are different ways to look at gray, and I have learned them in my travels.
For instance there is this gray:
This gray landscape is the frozen Bering Strait, somewhere near the Alaskan-Russian border. I was in a tiny plane, which was itself gray, flying from Nome to a spit of land and a community called Shishmaref. The land looks gray in the winter, and that land is rapidly eroding back into the sea, which is gray when the sky is gray.
And there is also the gray of the stones of the sea. This is by the beach at Petit St. Vincent, in the Grenadines.
Of course, gray is often the color of nature’s violence.I saw the tornado that swept through Brooklyn the other day, from a different window in my apartment. It was a wall of gray. What’s left after a fire is charred to gray. Below, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the gray lava landscape in what used to be the town of Kalapana:
Which also reminds me of the gray sky I saw on the High Road to Taos in New Mexico:
But sometimes gray isn’t violent at all. It’s downright peaceful, although since it shimmers when it is at peace, we tend to describe this state of gray as “silver”. I think many people would describe the gray I saw in this Maui sunset as silvery:
But I wouldn’t.
Alison J. Stein
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