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Brown

"Color is made for the perpetual comfort and delight of the human heart."

- John Ruskin


Pen & Ink drawing of a brick house with green curtains


I agree with that. Coloris one of the things that make my life worth living. On the other hand, the wrong color can send me into a tizzy. When my church installed a brownrug with orangezig zags in the lobby I hated it. Just thinking about it kept me up at night.


“How could they have picked it?” I whined to my friend, David. “It’s so awful, it makes me feel parched just looking at it.” And, worst of all, “Nobody asked me what I thought.”


David said, “You know how people with perfect pitch hear a wrong note and it hurts their ears? I think you may have perfect color pitch, and you’re extra sensitive, because, really, Barbara, I didn’t even notice that rug.” He was right. Some colors have all the powers for me that a cookie had for Marcel Proust. Have I read Proust? David says when asked that question we should always answer, “Well, not in English.” I haven’t read Proust, but I’ve read about his magic cookie and the transporting powers of our senses.


My mother loved color. She said, “When you shop, don’t flip through all the dresses —just glance over the whole rack and only look at the ones that catch your eye."


In other words, it’s the color that counts.


She always dressed me in red. Here I am in a redjumper—but look at my shoes.


child in a red dress with brown shoes, squatting boy a duck pond


That famous painter, Winston Churchill, said this about color; “I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.”


I used to agree; Brown was boring and even depressing. I keep two water jars on my drawing table to rinse my pens and brushes—one for the reds and one for the greens and blues. I hate the muddy greenish brownyou get when you mix too many colors.


I once spent the summer in a house that was all brown--brown rug, brown walls, brown imitation marble kitchen counters. The sun never came out, it was rainy and chilly and I wore the same ratty blue sweater every day. I thought it was the fault of all that brownuntil I remembered that it was the summer my grandmother died and oh yeah, I was in mourning.


But then I had a dream of a beautiful rich brown--yes, a dream that was just about a color--brown with a lot of red and gold flecks, and tiny green sprouts springing from it. It was gorgeous. It woke me up to the glories of brown. It’s all the colors together in various combinations. It’s the earth, birthplace of so many good things.


child with beautiful  brown eyes


Then along came Molly Louise, my granddaughter. After generations of only blue, green or gray eyes in our family, hers are a deep luminous brown. Can you be sparkly and velvety at the same time?


I will never speak ill of Brown again. Hazel, chestnut, umber, sepia, sienna, cocoa, fawn, bronze, amber, auburn, russet, mahogany; I love them all.


Did I mention my mother’s maiden name is Brown?

Oh, yes, and chocolate.


Pen & Ink of house of brown and white


In the house at the top brown plays a supporting role--bringing out the reds and greens. Here's brown as the star of the show.


January 25, 2019

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