Sunday, August 16, 2009

Colors, Part the Second

I can see from the dearth of comments on the post below that no one is interested in my reflections on color. Unlike Portia, who received 14 comments (including mine) on the post that inspired me. Does that reflect something about the age and life experience difference ~ she and her friends are at the beginning, full of optimism, moving from the bridal shower to baby shower stages, while I and mine are in the middle, reeling from life's disappointments and trying to rebuild? There is not a single one of my close group of ten or so friends who has not faced a life-altering confrontation with loss and, in several cases, true disaster, in the past decade. Why would we care in the least about bedroom color or living room decor, you ask?

Well, after reading Portia's post, I spent several hours playing around on websites related to color choices. (Where did I find the time? As it happens, I accomplished a great deal earlier this week but, as I have related and has been repeatedly affirmed to me, grief is exhausting. I have spent the past four days in something of a stupor, recovering from the previous three. Online playtime was practically a necessity.) The information was fascinating and, indeed, therapeutic. Possibly also boring to others, since it's about me me me, so I'll shave it down to three quick observations, with some conclusions in another post.

When we bought our home 25 years ago, the decor consisted of then very-fashionable colors and wallpaper in muted country colors and patterns: rusts, beiges, and sage-type greens found in an endless sequence of tiny prints. (You might notice that none of these colors are featured in my previous post, except as rejects.) But during those early years, as we began to recreate the house in our own image, we deepened but did not steer far from those colors, going toward yellows and blues and some reds. Not being Portia, I gave no thought whatever to any of this, but it seems clear now that my subconscious was steering me toward the creation of a home that beckoned with warmth and welcome. My personal wardrobe, interestingly, was based upon navy (interestingly, attorney Portia's favorite ~ and yes, I know the origin of the name Portia). A website tells me that "Navy carries the blue symbolism of importance, confidence, power, and authority. Darker blue, like navy, is associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism." Leave out the conservatism and you've got it ~ my approach to life as a young lawyer and then stay-at-home mom and community volunteer.

A few years ago, having recognized that our home no longer reflected our lives, I did a previous set of those House Beautiful type quizzes, one that asked about favorite clothing, geography, art, etc. It became clear that the beach and its colors should be my decorating focus. I thought that perhaps my ideal would be something light and airy and colorful: think Carribean and the covers of Coastal Living. However, we live on the Great Lakes in a home closing in on 100 years old, a home which features dark mahogany and oak woodwork and brass fixtures. I decided we would be better off focusing on the blues and greens of the coasts and waters of the north, Maine and Oregon ~ and even on the interior woods and lakes of Algonquin. I was still thinking warm and welcoming, however, as I was beginning to imagine the utility of this far-too-large-for-us house in terms of adult children and their spouses and children.

The past year has been an excursion into another realm entirely. I wrote a post last winter, I think, about my difficulties in choosing clothing, a dilemma echoed by one of my newly-widowed best friends. Who are we now, we wondered, a son and a husband missing from our lives? The houses raise the same questions as our wardrobes do. Our living room is the one room in our house that has undergone no changes at all in the time we have lived here, and I've been gazing at the walls in increasing desperation. That tiny rust print has no place in my current identity, and it's out of date and dark and not clean. This past week, unable either to stand it or to trade it in for a beach cottage, or even to afford to paint it (maybe soon), I went off to Pier One and purchased some dried plants to add some height and interest to the mantle arrangements. It now looks like someone gives a damn, but the colors are still all wrong. What am I to do? I don't think I'm a warm and welcoming person anymore. What kind of person am I? What kind of home should I keep?

Enter Portia's post,
House Beautiful, and this week-end's obsession with color. More to come later, but let me add one thing: if it seems as though I am channeling QG's daughter, I want to say that that girl, without a word about church or prayer or God, has performed a serious ministry to me this week. In writing about something that at her age I would have found baffling and somewhat frivolous, she has opened the door to some serious reflections about identity, loss, and self-expression. Who knew?


Daisy said...

Gotta admit that your picture choices appealed to me more than Portia's so maybe the age difference plays a part in this. I think it's wonderful that her post provided you with the respite you needed. A change can certainly be as good as a rest, eh?

A favorite ex-pastor of mine gave a sermon that I really appreciated about the sabbath. One of the things he mentioned was that, on the printed page, we need margins and spacing because otherwise our eyes become over-loaded and exhausted by too many words and letters coming at us. Likewise with some downtime. We need it whether we take it on a Sunday or any other day of the week or by taking fun quizzes.

Cynthia said...

I've actually been thinking about a response to that post since I read it. For weeks now (especially since the womanchild moved out, and the house has a new emptiness) a lot of my mental energy has been spent on what I can do to make this place look and feel like a place I want to be, a place that will reflect the woman who lives here. No answers yet. New bedding in rich jewel tones of burgundy, gold and green are the closest I've come. I'm afraid my housekeeping is the truer answer about where I am now.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

It strikes me that temporary fixes / changes might be best for now. Even though they are somewhat frustrating because they don't give you the sweeping change you crave, you sound like you have too many questions to make decorating decisions that you'll have to live with for years and years. Perhaps, if you could find some minor ways to brighten up the room and then just let your subconscious muse on the idea of color, something will come to you.

This feels like a lame comment, but it's what occurred to me.

Quotidian Grace said...

Your words about Portia's unknowing ministry to you in the last paragraph made me teary. It's another affirmation that ministry and connection can happen on the internet. Thank you.

You do have an artistic eye as anyone who has followed your blog and appreciated your photography knows. It doesn't surprise me that you could write these fascinating posts about color.

Although I really loved the big house where Portia and Babs grew up, after they were gone I found it depressing and felt impelled to move--much as you feel moved to redecorate. The floor plan of the old house was great for a growing family--not so much for a pair of empty nesters.

I love the floor plan of our new house--we actually use almost all of the space ourselves. Yesterday evening El Jefe and P-Dubya (Babs' fiance) were watching Tiger Woods on TV in our open floor plan while Babs and I chatted and prepared Sunday dinner. And we were all together! That wouldn't have happened in the old house with its traditional floor plan. (Portia and DK came for dinner but were still unpacking at the time).

The decor in the new house reflects my Texas Hill Country origins and is less formal that the old house. I am trying to put more bright color in the accessories but love the earth-tones of the paint, wood, tile and fixtures.

I'll stop now before this gets too long and because Portia is expecting me at her house to help finish the unpacking.

Averill said...

I think it's so easy to brush of interior design/fashion, etc. as pure frivolity, especially when confronted with the horrors of "real" life. That said, I think there IS something to the idea that we project our inner selves (or perhaps just what we'd like our inner selves to be) into what we wear, where we live, etc. Design is an opportunity to start over, to release the past, and to project who we'd like to become and I think it's vital to shed our old clothes, old things as they cease to reflect who we are and who we are becoming.

Beautiful post.

Kathryn J said...

At the beginning of summer, I had enough optimism about what was possible that I actually went to the store and got color strips - my entire house needs painted, inside and out. Now at the end of summer, I am scrambling to get the absolute musts done and painting is the farthest thing from my mind.

Glad you had fun playing with color and that diversions happen! I liked the pictures - just didn't really have anything to say. I still don't from the looks of this comment.