It has rained all day. Dark stagnant clouds that got hung up on the mountains on their way to eastern Washington, too heavy with rain to make it up and over. But late this afternoon a wind gave them a big push. So right now, outside there is this odd light that I have wondered for years how to describe.
Where I am it is still deep charcoal gray.But ’down below’ as we call it, that late, low slanting light has broken through underneath the clouds. I love it when this happens because the trees just glow. If any of you have ever found agates on the beach, when the sun is low and illuminates them so they shine amber among dull rocks you’ll know what I mean. It’s that same kind of glow.
But what color is it? Since you can’t see it, how can I describe it correctly? These are the things that challenge me as a writer, more so that stock writing exercises. When I see something that so moves me, and yet the words just aren’t right. How can you describe color unless you are a painter? Well, there’s that old box of crayons. But dang if I can remember any of the names other than Burnt Umber. That one sticks with me because, for some reason, I thought if I could melt it the color would change.
So this late, low light isn’t gold. It’s richer. It’s not amber. It’s a tad lighter. Maybe closer to a glass of my husband’s favorite single malt. It’s definitely not in the yellow shades. And yet it’s also not in the red shades. This isn’t the color you see during a normal sunset, where you get those flame colors, and those deep reds.
A friend of mine who is a poet, swims the freezing Skykomish river. She has talked about the colors underwater, all the shades of green and gold. And she says she can tell when fall is coming because those summer shades deepen. She doesn’t know if it’s from leaf litter in the water, or just the changing angle of the sun.
Her description, the way I picture it (since I don’t swim in that river), is the closest I can find to describing this light. I can imagine those deep greens and golds that she would see underwater, and it’s that same image I get now. Maybe it’s the way water changes color. After a day of rain, when everything is saturated, and the light hits those drops, it might be the same as fall light angling through an emerald river.
It has taken me over 400 words to try to describe a color. That makes me laugh. Is it a sign of being a writer, that it takes so many words, or is it a sign of seeing something beautiful and being at a loss as to how to make you see it, too?
Well, maybe it’s just a sign of a piece that needs some editing.
But…can you see the color? Do you know what I’m trying to describe? Have you seen it? And how would you, writer or not, describe that shade?