When it comes to such objects as personal possessions, such as clothing, knick-knacks, and furniture such as my orange velvet chair, I prefer bright, intense colors, especially with somewhat outrageous color combinations. Perhaps flamboyant is a more precise word.
One of my favorite t-shirts is black, an emotionally neutral color. On the front of the t-shirt, a Navajo bear stands in the center of a Dream Catcher. This myth-driven design, which covers the entire front, is highlighted by metallic, blatant gold and copper fabric paints, riveting the viewer’s eyes on the interplay of colors.
On the other hand, In my encounters with the natural world, the color families I interact with have an entirely different hold on me; one of deep emotional reaction. This planet’s natural objects – living and non-living – are bedecked with a melding of color family associations. Three specific color families from nature’s palette stir strong emotional responses in me: greens, grays, and most importantly – browns.
Browns belong to a group of colors which are the foundation of intriguing musings involved in its spectral range. Simple questions can be asked about the browns, such as, “Is it brown of black? Is it ecru or white? Is it red or mahogany?” Certainly the tug at the heartstrings as I pass through diverse environments are unambiguously pure pleasure for me.
The most dramatic show on Earth is the myriad, mind-boggling shades of brown appearing on the skins of the people residing on our planet. As I travelled through parts of five continents, the innumerably varied skin colors amazed me. Just immersing myself in the color range of skins enables me to apply the psychological rules pertaining to human behavior. How much the human family, for better or worse, is alike underneath the colors of their skin! It is indeed a celebration of humanity.
While musing about the skin tones, I had a flashback to 2006. There I was, standing in an alcove on the Great Wall of China, just watching the flow of multi-hued humanity undulating past me. The skin colors melded into ribbons of flowing colors, and the four other senses evaporated. In addition, to the skin tones, the brown shades of the stones in the Great Wall’s structure were so diverse, many of us – from all over the world – spontaneously examined them closely, comparing and contrasting the flow of colors and the patterns formed.
One can also lose oneself in the diverse brown-colored sands, gravels, and stones in watercourses, floods, hills, mountains, deserts, clouds, and storms. It is as if Mother Nature has copied and them mixed into an infinite range of browns she once saw in a local Starbucks Coffee Shop during the morning rush hour. That’s part of my world-wide sand collection on display~
Who cannot look at the moon swathed in a dozen shades of reddish-brown, lying low over the autumnal horizon, and not be affected? My emotions also become intensely focused when seeing a twenty foot deep cut in a landscape. The exposed layers of soils, over twenty feet deep, each layer separated by the brown colors the environment wreaked on them over the millennia draw me in. Color ranges, in various shades of brown, can span the brown spectrum from dark to ash to coffee to toasted bread to a different shade of brown, to the present layer of topsoil, either brown and fertile, or bleached and sere from drought.
The western states sport their own versions of the brown world, often highlighted and intruded upon by reds, yellows, rusts, greens, blacks, and grays. However, in the eastern part of the nation, the brown color family is flamboyantly rampant. While driving on the interstates through the road cuts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the southern Appalachians, one can be brought to a dead halt on road shoulders to stare at the layers of colors changed by the tug, push, and roll of tectonic plates hundreds of millions of years ago. The soils of millions of years ago have turned to rock layers, up to hundreds of feet high, which have been squeezed, melted, uplifted, and then squeezed some more. Here, in a mountain chain which was higher than the Himalaya Mountains, a brief two hundred thirty million years ago, the only non-brown color is an occasional seam of black coal, much like old, dried blood lying on an abdominal wound. The browns above and below the wound bring soothing relief to the eye, mind and soul.
At a road cut called Sideling Hill on Interstate 68 in Pennsylvania and Maryland, eighteen wheeler trucks are dwarfed to the size of ants. Often, I have seen a dozen trucks on the road shoulder, as the drivers get out of their cabs to stare speechlessly at this road cut. One man once came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and began to quietly cry. Browns are powerful colors in unexpected situations.
There is another more subtle explosion of browns in the natural world. One needs to become intimate with living things in order to appreciate the interplay, bonding, weaving, and variety which one can observe. Because of various physical shortcomings, I have a collection of wooden walking sticks of various heights, to be of assistance when I am on uneven turf. The woods of the sticks is diversely mottled, dappled, and flecked in shades of browns. Peculiar as it may sound, I feel the colors blending into the forests, deserts, and hills I traverse can reach out and send a psychic energy which keeps me balanced in a brown-shaded world into which my body blends. One stick was polished to a high gloss when I first bought it at a roadside stand in the rainforest ofCosta Ricamany decades ago. It long ago acquired the patina of wear, so its tropical woods, carved into inch high rings on an iron inner core are now dull faded rose-brown, tan-brown, and most delightful – a latte-brown.
Forested lands throughout this Earth sooth the soul and inspire the spirits. Visiting the forested areas of this planet, from the sequoia groves of the west, national parks in the fifty states, and through Central American rainforests, the feeling of intimacy with the shades of brown is unmistakable to me. There is the unique awe of standing in Australian broadleaf forests, where the trees are so high the crowns disappear into the clouds. In the silence of this multi-hued brown landscape of gigantic matchsticks, the tongue falls silent. One can touch the brown-hued giants, feeling no fear. On the other hand, African valleys, and the forests surrounding the Great Wall, gave me a sense of being intricately woven within the tapestry of shades of brown. In all these places, one thought surfaces over and over again. How were defenders of the land able to see the oncoming troops attacking them, when the armor and weapons were also shades of brown?
Animals, of course, are resident in these and other landscapes. Most animals, of course, do not attack people; rather they avoid us. However, how many animals can you think of that are various shades of brown? What, you thought of a polar bear? Many of these northern giant exhibit brown family tinges in their fur.
Which animals are on the endless browns’ list? Which invertebrates such insects, spiders, cockroaches, worms, millipedes, scorpions, sea creatures? To me, even an animal considered disgusting by most folk, becomes a piece of eye candy as I admire the stripes, dots, folds, segments, and even the stingers of these quietly riotous colors on six or eight leggers. Fear fades, although I do remain alert, lost in contemplation of an art work done by the hand of Him who made all creatures large and small. So much beauty in such small packages!
Think, too, of vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. So many of them are masterpieces of brown beauty interwoven, patterned, spotted, splotched, or even definitely one shade of intensity that brooks no changes.
Keep in mind our two True American birds. Both the Bald Eagle and the American Turkey aredecked out in an amazing variety of browns.
If you look closely for the browns of our natural world, you will find the soothing calm you will be given by beauty beyond any artist’s capability to duplicate.
But be careful! Scorpions’ and spiders’ mixed intertwining of browns are each unique to the animal world, but are best viewed from afar. Mother Nature is not always very nice, you know.