Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The trouble with describing colors: green


Each spring as the trees around my house break their long winter dormancy, I marvel at varying hues of green. I become jealous of photographers, who can record colors as the sun moves higher in the sky. I envy painters, who can add a dab of this or that, spin their brushes, and mimic Nature on a canvas. How can I, a simple lover of words, recreate for a reader what I see so vividly all around me?

I was gifted an old PMS ink selector by my local print shop.  The colors, five up on a side, have numbers that are linked to the formula that creates each color.  No silly names, like those in retail paint stores, but still, no names.

My Flip Dictionary lists seventy-two words under ‘Green.’ Spruce is accessible, although needles on the spruce trees in our farm’s windbreaks have more than one color. The new needles are pure baby spruce green. They’ve not baked in the summer sun or been covered with hoar-frost on a sub-zero winter morning. Older, weather-tested needles are thick and dark, true spruce green. Then there are the dying needles, yellowing slowly from base to tip, no longer useful to the only tree they’ve ever known.

Niagara Green. I think of Niagara as the falls. Billions of gallons of foaming white and blue water crashing down hundreds of feet. I don’t get green, except possibly from the economy-supporting money local restaurants and motels make off honeymooning tourists and the occasional over-the-falls-in-a-barrel daredevil.

Parrot has me stumped. I think of parrots as raucous, multi-colored birds perched on a one-eyed pirate’s shoulder.

Emerald is easier. So is olive, and lime. I can look up Myrtle in a plant identification book.

Leaf green: That’s ridiculous! There are so many shades of green just in the Brassicas in my garden. Broccoli green is different than cabbage green and cauliflower green, not to mention all the various kales and Brussels sprouts.

Dark green. That color in the crayon box.
Hunter green. The green in camouflage.
Bottle green. German beer bottles.

Clair de lune sounds like the greenish, witch-y, I-can-drive-without-headlights-at-midnight glow generated by a full moon at perigee.

Envy green. Not in the 64-ct crayon box.

Eau de Nile. Anybody know what color green this is?




2 comments:

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