Tonight, just as day began to fade into late-day, I decided to take a slow drive along Lake St. Clair. I had been to the mall – a hateful place to be – to buy summer clothing. There, seemingly suspended in mid-sky, was a particularly imposing Great Lakes steamer. A small sailboat was chasing it.
On this lake, on all of the lakes of childhood in Minnesota and Wisconsin, at a particular moment and not later, sky and water flow into one another. Sometimes, as tonight, the watery line is a shimmery mauve, like an ancient scarf of silk moiré. It always sinks within two or three minutes.
Is this a story about lakes? No. It’s a color story. It made me think, all over again, about Laura Bryant’s important visit a week ago at Artisan Knitworks, where she handed over the great gift of her color theory course to a roomful of mesmerized students. They’re still talking about it. Two of them reorganized an entire wall of wool yarns in glass cases according to what Ava McDowell called “Laura’s principles”; three or four others spent this past Tuesday evening talking about why particular colors in their new, Bryant-inspired projects “pop” and others do not. They now see the blues and purples, the ash brown, in asphalt pavements – and if they don’t yet, they soon will.
I’ve seen variations of that shade of mauve at least a thousand times over dozens of bodies of water. But tonight, the fact that it always happens that way when the elements fall into place -- that it can happen in Oban, Scotland, or Brainerd, Minnesota, or Spirit Lake, Iowa, just as surely as in Grosse Pointe, Michigan -- made me want to cry. It’s never the same color story exactly -- the steamer, a flock of upside-down geese, the sun’s angle can change things. Color is a construct. All of this no doubt has something to do with recent, close encounters with Laura. Enough said. And for the record: I didn’t seriously cry. I was, after all, driving my precious bug.