The Color of Living Things

A Chinese friend once told me that the word for blue and green was the same, and that it meant the color of living things. She spoke a Cantonese dialect at home, and learned Mandarin for business. From a Google search though, I can only find that there is a word for blue-green that means the color of water. Close enough. The idea was planted in my head that in other languages the object signifies the color, not the other way around.

In the spectrum of blue-green I often tend to think of warm places like the Caribbean, where along the shallow shoreline the water is a chalky blue-green from the silt of limestone and pulverized shells. And down in the islands, the vegetation is humid and dense with thick vines and rough-leafed trees. Jungle growth is constant and but also somnambulant, as if it’s got all the time in the world to wrap itself around the Equator.

At the far Northern end of the earth, I’ve come to appreciate the blues and greens of land and sea near the Arctic Circle, like Iceland. There, the sea can be a hard gray Northern blue. And while it may be colorless and full of ice all winter, eventually the sun hits and light refracts– the water turns a bracing cobalt, metallic blue—a completely different color of life.

Northern Blue

During the short intense summers the midnight sun produces a gigantic green, a verdant quickening, where the photosynthesis is drastic, a grab-it-while-you-can act of desperation. Especially in the north of Iceland, where there is little reforestation, among the treeless vistas of thrown up turf the blades of grass are waxy and thick, full of nutrition for grazing horses and sheep. There the green cliffs topple into the Northern blue fjords, and the object and color become one living thing.



7 thoughts on “The Color of Living Things

  1. My private moments of Zen are also very green. Between the nursery, greenhouse and dispensary, I often find myself thinking about my first visit to Iceland and dreaming about a return visit. Again, I am a ready, willing and amiable traveler should you find the need for another happy soul to travel with. Your vignettes are lovely. Lorelle

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