The pandemic wall is painted gray

But gray isn’t real – and that’s not as depressing as it sounds

A red-tailed hawk with a dead squirrel limp in its claws flew up from the ground two feet away, passing just by my head. A moment earlier, I hadn’t noticed a thing, running through Rock Creek Park with my head in the clouds, which, today, were gray.  

That’s the point, right? The coloring of hawks and squirrels is made for them to blend in with the fallen leaves, dirt, tree trunks, and scattered empty bushes of the park. The squirrel wants to hide from the hawk. The hawk wants to sneak up on its prey. Both want to avoid the grasping hands of human children. Together they can sit on a forest slope clear as day. 

The days lately have been gray, gray, gray. The grayness has helped the hawk; the colors detract from the park, blending everything to gray. It hasn’t helped me, or many others now hitting the pandemic wall (or still living in it). The days all blend in with one another. We have a supposed end date to all this but it somehow feels farther away every day. Some nights I just want to go to bed so it can be morning again. I’d really like to wake up in the middle of summer with a vaccine needle in my arm. But in the meantime I wake up because my cat is vomiting so I clean it up so that she doesn’t eat it and go back to bed and eventually I wake up because it’s time to wake up, and what then? 

It seems the sun agrees we should all be depressed because it’s turning everything gray. So I thought a lot about the color gray this week. I’ve come to the conclusion that gray isn’t real.

Gray is a combination of two things (black and white) or many things (color). Clouds are gray because they scatter all the colors equally and thickly, turning white to dark. A red-tailed hawk is not gray. It has many colors. Its head and tail are burgundy, its back and wings are white speckled with brown, its stomach is snow-white. No, that’s not accurate, either. Each individual feather has many colors and distinct patterns; in various assortments, many are white at the bottom, with brown stripes along its length, with a band of black at the tip. Eastern gray squirrels are similarly variant. They have warm orange fur on their sides and tail fur that goes from brown to dark to white. DC has its fair share of black squirrels and albino squirrels; these stick out. Solid coloring is a killer. Variation is key. Variation leads everything to blend. 

Image result for red tailed hawk camouflage
Not my photo
Image result for squirrel colors
Not my photo

Some animals are colorful, though. Cardinals and blue jays thrive in it. Cardinals have feathers that are almost (but not quite) entirely one color. Blue jay feathers have crazy variations, none of which are intended to camouflage. They have color despite the risk. Because of the risk. They have color so they can show off to the ladies and say hey, I must be fast and strong because I can live with color. 

Other things are colorful too, like chalky Valentine’s candy hearts that say UR COOL and DREAM BIG. Their colors are solid, minus the letters.

Gray isn’t real. Close your eyes when you look at something gray. What do you see? Red eyelids and yellow lights.

Ever turn the lights down low and wonder how everything turns to gray? When lights are dim, colors go away. But colors aren’t real, either. A thing is not inherently colorful. A thing gives off color due to the way it interacts with waves of light. 

Apparently there is a kind of mite that lives on your face and never poops. Instead of pooping, it bursts when it dies. It bursts and all its organs and poop explode on your face. It’s too tiny to see or feel. Face mites are our most intimate friends. They have been closer to us than anything else. Face mites are not gray. They’re too small to have any color at all.

If a gray-bark tree falls in a forest and no one is there to look upon it, was it ever gray?

Color isn’t real and gray isn’t real. The plus side to this is that days are never gray. They are never exactly the same. One day a red-tailed hawk will nearly drop a dead squirrel on your face. One day you will only dream of that happening.

But colored light waves are real. So turn up the light and take in the waves. Every gray day has its variations. I’m looking harder to see them. I’m really trying.

Happy Valentine’s Day. You’re cool. Dream big. 

❤ Denise


Ellie(s) of the week: Ellie tried to melt underneath the door to reach me in my office. She did not succeed. Photo from the outside taken by Seth; terrifying photo from inside taken by me. 

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