1, And God, wrathful at humanity’s abuse of the earth, of other creatures, and of each other, declared:
2. This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and thee for perpetual generations. I do remove my rainbow from its immanence in life terrestrial. Expunged be all eye-pleasing hues of whatever shade, saturation, or tint.
3. Taupe becomes extinct though the mole digs on; the eggplant may wax larger, recognized by its shape, size, and weight, by its dark, shiny skin, lighter pulp, and taste, but “aubergine” reverts to meaningless.
4. “Red-right-return”–mantra of river-navigation–becomes as useless as boats wrecked at the channel marker. Citrus-greening disease becomes as gray as the Confederate statue. Brass instruments fade to shiny.
6. Goldilocks loses her synecdochic identity and the whole palette of human hair–copper, silver, flaxen, platinum, black, strawberry, or carrot–becomes drab and un-dyeable. The mistress of ceremonies can never welcome “our blue-eyed sisters”–because the stained-glass of the iris, ranging from light to dark blue, from blue-green to green to light and dark brown, to hazel–is now gray-scale.
7. Oz becomes a province of black-and-white Kansas, The Sherwin-Williams store yields to a Dairy Queen. Jayn’s “browning of mature hay” becomes a mere darkening. Val’s lavender and yellow-orange home becomes bus-shaped dusk, Wesley’s peacock-purple flies to oblivion, and the Chateau’s bottle drains of blue. The smilax blossom turns a lighter gray in the autumn, the bluebell rings a rebuke, the orange to a flavor.
8. The ceiling-swooping red dragon has a cameo in a black-and-white movie. Rutile becomes as a C-sharp minor diminished chord to one deaf. Yea, the sky itself–its “cerulean” becomes as “handsome” to one blind.
Roy G. BivMay it never come to pass, this vision of hue-doom. My friend Roy has a joie de vivre matched by a fierce-bearded prophetic tendency. And he tends toward extremes both sartorial and editorial. Once I expressed concern that he was such a–well, so flamboyant. “Where,” I ventured to ask, “would you say you lie on the–” “Randall,” he interrupted, “I am the spectrum!” That famous laugh and its gleaming gold tooth: “I’m a chromo!”
So, making allowances for Roy’s histrionics, let thy rods and thy cones comfort thee. May thou relish all the colors that result from “distribution of light power versus wavelength,” a diffusion that interacts in the eye with the sensitivities of light receptors (“Color,” Wikipedia). To those born with limited discrimination of colors, or yet-unshorn of cataracts, I offer an apology for this celebration.
Strangely enough, we perceive color when an object rejects it from the spectrum of light while absorbing others. When one hue stays, no other Crayolas exit the box. As you might expect, the process involves some challenging physics. Wikipedia explains that such a perceived color “is a complex result of its surface properties, its transmission properties, and its emission properties, all of which contribute to the mix of wavelengths in the light leaving the surface of the object.” So the gorgeous ceramic pot that introduces this chapter emits colors that result from several factors–a process that can be appreciated for its complexity, even if not fully understood.
If these properties scatter all wave-lengths evenly–a rainbow-buster–the result is what people see as white. This is what Marjory and I, along with our friend Tom, beheld after climbing Buffalo Mountain in a sprinkle of rain. No amazing vista in the fog, not even a horizon, just the shrouded hint of crags and a mysterious presence. White can be welcome: one chilly autumn day at the Community Market, McCabe Coolidge took a break from his pottery display to stand in a slice of sunshine, his gleaming apron making him look healthier after his long recovery from Lyme Disease.
The degree of sunlight can affect the tint of vegetables. “We had leeks planted in this garden,” wrote Polly Hieser, who explained that poplar leaves were blocking rays from some of the plants, “and the ones in full sun did well whereas the ones that had more shade were much smaller and not as dark green.” (E-mailed CSA-bag note, October 13, 2017. By permission.)
The name of a color can be literal or figurative. Once a family was washing cars behind a gas station to pay for a deceased member’s funeral expenses. The main scrubber wore a T-shirt that bragged “Redneck of the Year.” No argument from his cigarette as it poked over over belly and beard. “Seems that since you’re the redneck,” I observed in a friendly tone, “you only wash red cars” (mine being the second). “We take ’em all,” he replied as his relatives laughed at our exchange. At the Post Office a station wagon bore the license plate “ANTIQUE.” The Oldsmobile’s red paint had turned sickly pale and bore orange rust-blotches here and there. The man sitting behind the wheel nodded when I said, “A little work and it’ll be as good as old.” A color can exist only in memory, as with the former Floyd Blue Sox baseball team, recalled by Maurice Slusher in an interview by the Old Church Gallery’s Floyd Story Center.
Wavelengths from the three-in-one Stoplight? One lens beckons Jay Gatsby across the lake. Another is as lavish-lipstick-red as the smile under a mask at a Mardi Gras fund-raiser. The third ripens from a primary yellow back to green in three or four seconds. A related color, orange: about the time of an equinox, waiting uphill at The Stoplight on E. Main, I had to look away from the blazing sunset reflected in plate-glass to my left.
Abundant local colors already seen in Floydiana:
The teal blue of a mug (a blend of two glazes on a brown clay); a green rock-bucket; yellow light sweeping across the paper meadow of a nature-notebook; a sun-glowing-orange vase; the maroon and orange of Tech paraphernalia; the pink and blue trails on a map of Rocky Knob; a reddish outfit tinting the mist of the Saddle; the beyondness of blue set off by contrails; the red-orange flame on a stocking cap; the brown eye of the trespassing horse; the psychedelic steer in front of Harvest Moon; the silver-silo’d tanker truck; the oil-paint rack of Volvo truck-cabs; the punctured pink label of a cat-food can; brown muddy ruts of early spring; the Old Masters’ scene of women sitting at a campfire; the gray, somber, cloudy days of the Travianna winter.….
In later chapters, look for blessings of the rainbow in Dahlia’s earring, Colleen’s “Museletters,” Jack’s fire engine, and Val’s bus.Unlike many a county, hues in Floyd are not mainly commercial, and in fact billboards rarely “Bring on the BACON!” By contrast, one November billboard for Pirate Voyage, near Myrtle Beach, pictured swords that crossed next to the Three Wise Men, or perhaps the Holy Family. Neon, too, is sparing in Floyd County. Sunlight falls on vegetation, people, places, animals, artifacts, and costumes.
Even into a doorless barn on Black Ridge Rd., where ramshackle gray wood sets off the mysterious blue-green capital letters NED in the cluttered dimness. Sign-colors of a few places correspond to their names, e.g., the Green Man Inn on W. Main St. and the Blue Ridge Cafe on E. Main (its sign a bit greenish). Or with their essences, e.g., the Little White Church on Daniels Run. (The author deems white a color because it’s a Crayola.) On Daniels Run, by the way, a driver passing an automobile junkyard is likely to be blinded by a silver spotlight from a fender-laser. Ahead in your lane of the road, a blinking amber lantern means that you have landed on Poky Tractor in the game of Floydopoly..
In summer the be-vined spruce trunk at 209 E. Main St. with its double green graces downtown for another generation. Because of abundant meadows and woods, most colors of the landscape are shades of green, burnt umber, and straw. In late summer, however, the arboreal hues already range from various greens to yellow-to-red-to-blue-tinctured. And hues also vary by weather. “I am so happy for this rain,” wrote Polly of Seven Spring Farms. “It has been so dry the pastures have turned brown. Maybe they will green up a little now.” In the autumn, hardwood foliage claims a good part of the rainbow, often varying on a single oak or maple, and even these hues range from a dull against gray to sun-spangled, especially by wind-shimmer. Winter extends its white fingers here and there, and washed-out March finally reaches Dodd Creek Valley:
Hues are also complicated by shadows that deepen or complement them. Once in autumn the inclining sun brightened the already-light-colored leaves of several trees across the valley. The foliage casts dark green shadows on the grassy slope of a pasture behind–like manifestations of their other selves, or like the envelopes of hot-air balloons that lay slightly rumpled uphill waiting to be pumped full of air and rise into the sky.
And that black rotundity of fur that just lumbered speedily across Franklin Pike? Fueled by Goldilocks’ porridge? On a March day, that shape of misleadingly humble brown: first rabbit of spring. And floating quickly through the Courthouse intersection on its left edge: a lime-green kayak atop a car.
Outside Harvest Moon Food Store, our youngest grandson exclaimed, “A pig with glasses!” And with skin that was a rust-dappled, painted pink. He bent over the four-footed, curly-tailed LP cartridge to admire its nostril-ed snout, which was clasped by pince-nez spectacles. In the lad’s amazed interjection I heard the echo of a grandfather’s words in a short story, “The Artificial Nigger,” by Flannery O’Conner. The man has been feuding with his grandson when they come upon a grotesque, minstrel-inspired lawn ornament: “An artificial nigger!” he exclaims in naive racism. Their shared wonder at the statuette reconciles the two kinfolk–the author’s suggestion that heavenly grace can work by improbable means. In our case, this peeling-paint porker united us in affection for Floyd County’s whimsical side.
Alas, the majestic verdancy of hemlocks, both forest and yard, continues to bleach to gray, thanks to the tiny white dots of the wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). Below is a photo of one victim in 2014. It towers over James Coartney (retired from teaching at Virginia Tech), who is about to convert it from tall to long. Its approximately 110 feet of timber would yield about 1700 board-feet of lumber.
In late September, 2017, two of the three primary colors of light–green and blue–set each other off as Dodd Creek neared the Rt. 8 bridge:
The end of summer brings the annual collision between the Potato Wagon (which mortals interpret as thunder) and the ox-drawn, leaf-wreathed, Cart of Autumn. Again the two drivers express road-rage: the grizzled farmer hurls his pipe onto a mound of his potatoes, which are being mashed by horses’ hooves, while Autumn rips off her cornucopia-tiara and throws it onto the spokes of a broken-off wheel that still rotates horizontally. Now liquids from the cargo, open jars of tempera paint, shoot upward and their wide-scattered pigments descend at different rates, sometimes mixing, sometimes retaining their elemental property.
To watch a leaf dangle between summer and fall:
Agricultural colors? Fields change hue over the next hillcrest, into the next hour, into the next season. They are often dotted with brown, black, white, or black-and-white cattle that can be multicolored of herd or hide. (Look for a steer that sports a pinkish label on its ear.) One city-dweller, originally from one area of Italy, wondered why all the cows were not white.
Leached wood, its pigment having enlivened the past, does appear on abandoned dwellings, barns, and other outbuildings—perhaps with a rusty roof as a concession to color. On the hill above the unpaved road stands an outhouse; below the highway, a barn collapses partway to archaeology. But the gray of these structures lends historical-architectural-esthetic authenticity. Their mechanical counterparts often preserve touches of mottled or faded paint.
The sunrise or sunset, especially when seen from heights, rather than from valleys, of the Blue Ridge Plateau, make an unhurried royal progress that dazzles the onlooker.
Suppose the author takes out Randall’s Botanical off the shelf and scans few county-colors:
A scarlet oak after the rain—its new leaves sparkle yellow-green with a tinge of red-orange, forerunners of autumnal glory. Halfway through summer black locust trees turn dull copper on their lower branches. The cause: healthy leaf-miners and their larvae.
One day in Lineberry Memorial Park, a locust tree as high as the roof of the old shirt factory rustled at its top. It was reflected in the hundred or so window panes (where needles once stitched) as if mirrored in a vertical river—gray-green with white clouds, the image distorted in places by the glass as if shimmering in water.
In late summer the black-gum species absorbs red ink, maybe garnet-crimson, into some of its leaves as if colored in by a fountain pen. Apple-skins under a tree range from brown (bruised) to black (bitten) to red (bite). Wildflowers—one of life’s complex simple pleasures—exhibit how many hues in their attempt to attract insects? They include the understated mauve of a cluster of tall-stalked flowers shaped like a parachute.
What color is a blackberry? Red, purple, or black depending on its degree of ripeness. Of a two-liter bottle? Transparent, if I may judge from one that I discovered while dragging a hose downhill from cistern to hemlock. Perhaps ten years old, the crumpled artifact stood out (although half-buried in leaves and mud) not only by the shiny plastic but by the faint blue remnant of a label.
Floyd county has no shortage of wavelength-varied animals and insects. Suddenly the grass clashes with the yellow dome of a box turtle. This creature invites admiration for the hieratic design on its shell that would provide material for Native American storytellers. And on my walk to the garage, the familiar set of brick-colored tiles underfoot becomes the stark background of a swirling arabesque–that wriggled off. In a hawk’s mouth, s pink baby mouse “looked like chewing gum” (Fred First).
Our hot-potato, dropped-off cats having been dispersed, a pale yellow butterfly with black markings now makes itself at home. Another insect on a butterfly bush—merely a beetle, yet an iridescent and dotted copper ring worthy of an emperor’s finger. A black-legged tick on human skin? It can produce a red bull’s-eye rash that indicates the bacterial Lyme Disease.Viewed through the cold panes of the tapas bar, the night was forbiddingly dark–except for the cheerful, red-shedding lampshade in the window of Gallery OneEleven. Down at the corner I once waited at The Stoplight for the blue billboard of a truck to wheel past letter by letter: B-u-d-L-i-t-e. Another time the two red lenses above were doubled by two red bulbs atop a fire engine. A pair of pedestrians, half-hidden by orange raincoats, made their way across S. Locust oblivious to the red light, and downhill from the Library a red truck once sat sidelined by a blue one. Further from town a World War II souvenir along Rt. 221 S angles its barrel toward Stonewall Church, miles away on 221 N, its surface properties helping to create a “Don’t-spot-me” color:
Across the highway, glassware in the kitchen window of Janice Coartney (on the old route of Hwy. 221 below town) absorbs all colors except what is usually termed cobalt blue:
Farther down the highway to a rollable restaurant, an artistic customer has set down a fork to carve designs on the picnic table with Sharpies and knothole. A couple of months later the bird had flown into the rain but the flame still burned:
Farther downhill, the no-man’s-land by the dumpsters once hosted an informal racing installation by Valley’s Lube and Tire:
Across the road at Slaughters’ Grocery, I waited for the cashier to fetch two packets for the customer in front of me that bore the capital letters RED MAN. On a shelf at Food Lion stood a candle for the county’s non-citizen citizens (see Chapter 46). Our Lady of Guadalupe, rainbow-of-raiment plus stars and squiggles of gold, helped to encircle a white wax cylinder 20 cm high. To her left a slightly curved trellis of red and pink roses followed the edge of the shell-like background; to her right the Mexican flag with its red, white, and green bands hung in folds like a closed drape. A figure little dreamed of by the early Protestant settlers from Northern Europe; and although her garb is long like the skirts worn by Mennonite women, the two styles are otherwise polar.
Natural ingredients around the curve just past Margie Keith’s church-house:
Back up to town and School House Fabrics:
Back to Main St. where a fortunate driver might watch as this truck ahead begins to pull away: silver lug-nuts of the rear left wheel seem to collapse into a line, made of individual rounded ends, that rises up and up and up like a necklace.
On the sidewalk of Farmers’ Supply, the annual rake-o-rama:
Once because of an exigency at home, we had to buy a large plunger at Farmers’ Supply. “Going for the big guns,” remarked a clerk, who didn’t even try to find a bag for something 20″ long with a dozen disks near the business end that measured about 8″ by 6″ wide at the broadest point. It suggested a battle mace–a club with a handle and weighty head–made of blue plastic. How to get it to the car without embarrassment? I stuffed it under my jacket but got a rebuke from Marjory for looking like a thief. While she continued to shop, I waited on the busiest corner of town holding one side of the open jacket over the bulge like a concealed-carrier asking for trouble. At last we got away from Main St., so for a few seconds I could imitate a prancing drum major who pumped the blue baton.
As I hiked along this very sidewalk of E. Main, a Jeep passed with its coiled Don’t tread plate, above which beamed the large yellow smiley-face of a spare-tire cover. Another time I passed a woman who wore a bright orange sweatshirt proclaiming ILLINOIS, and as we chatted, I learned that she had grown up in the cornfields near my alma mater. “The mountains got me,” she explained; “If God sees fit to put them in Illinois, I’ll go back.” Another time as I strolled my new grandson along the sidewalk, we passed DJ’s Drive-in; although a distinctly home-made business, its carhop wore a shirt with the image of a big red heart placed between the words “I” and “New York.”
Further downhill at the Post Office, a young woman got into a car wearing tennis shoes and a T-shirt of a color and luminescence apparently borrowed from the neon gas-price-numbers at the Exxon station; incongruously, her vehicle was the sort of lifeless brown that results when you mix all your watercolors together. Then, in another contrast, two men exited their nearby car wearing white, long-sleeved LDS-label shirts. At the recycling center on Franklin Pike, someone eyed my bin of newspaper. “May I have these colored sheets? I’m a potter–use them for wrapping.”
In the other direction, on S. Locust St., I once enjoyed a slight drug-trip thanks to a silver tractor-trailer. As it ground forward near my place on the sidewalk, the trailer mirrored the facade of Farmers’ Supply–rather, distorted it–for the brown of the brick was largely absorbed by the aluminum, stainless steel, whatever, so as to de-emphasize color and emphasize shape. The dark frame of each window of each story was doubled or tripled by what I realized was a series of panels that sheathed the trailer. And of course the half-abstract composition was not static but dynamic. The artist’s signature on the back: “Walton.”
A few yards down the sidewalk at the loft: Black Water, swinging color:
Next door at the Community Market, voila! A bouquet of vegetables:
Across S. Locust St., it’s the Wooly Jumper yarn store next to the barber shop. Needle-fodder stored in cubbies:
What’s this outside? A parade of adults and children head toward The Stoplight. On a dreary morning each child carries a sort of flower, yellow or blue or light green–ahh, a spiral made of construction paper. The Rising Sun Community School is holding a march, Pinwheels for Peace. One of the children is Maya, who once petitioned Mother Gaia to heal my scalp. An earlier time I had encountered her on this sidewalk while forming my own parade with a silver tray, which I flapped, rapped, and flashed back to the bakery.
Past the barber shop to the Country Store, where a double-line of about thirty-five barrels and jars make a candicopia of hues, many of the brands already multicolored.
Next door, at the rambling-second-hand store Angels in the Attic, I recognized an item as magical and bought it for a quarter. Nobody can say, “Randall, you never gave your grandchildren a brass-plated tray, somewhat blotchy, engraved JAI ISHAM ISHVARAM, to toss like a discus.”
Further down S. Locust St. at Lineberry Park, is what else but a parachute camouflaged for a mission in Crayola Land:
Uphill and around the curve to the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, which is hosting a Saturday workshop on making barn-quilts–wood treated with three coats of paint and adorned with designs of acrylic paint (photo below at left).
The next evening, in the same Hayloft Gallery upstairs at the JAX, a young soprano from Korea sang in Italian, German, and Latin. Amid amid the three dark-suited instrumentalists, she seemed to draw power from a red dress.*
Attached to a wall of the Jacksonville gallery is a wooden box. Glass on the front, slot on top, it bears this sign: “Although our exhibits and gallery receptions are always free, a donation of any amount is greatly appreciated.” At the bottom nudged against the back was a lone disk of copper.
On the corner of Rt. 221 N and Christiansburg Pike, multi-hued signs cheered up a gloomy day:
Farther out of town stands the Pine Tavern Restaurant, where colored buttons shine yet from the nineteenth century:
Further toward Roanoke, along the right side of Rt. 221 N., two stored snowplow-blades faced the highway abreast, scooped up the inclining August sun, and glowed bright orange. In one garden along that road chartreuse shirts continued to scare away crows; in another, a scarecrow changed hue with its costumes, one of them rusty purple.
Off Franklin Pike, on a windy hilltop, a rowdy group attended the solar eclipse. As the big orange declined toward Downtown Floyd, it was gradually nibbled by moon and tree:
Red, white, and blue: colors of the poker chips were brought out by high school students who congregated at Black Water Loft on Friday afternoons. And of the flag skillfully handled by the Honor Guard on Memorial Day. During this ritual behind Zion Lutheran Church, a red plastic flower caught at the bottom of the cemetery fence, unable to escape or wither. On Christiansburg Pike (Rt. 651) a memorial oval of plastic red roses hung on a tree near a sign for Camp Creek. By contrast, orangeness once brought life to an all-gloomy-green day: ”A fire!” proclaimed Marjory, as down in Dodd Creek Valley flames rose from an uneven circle like a heathen ritual of hope, a wood-stove for the outdoors, its smoke easing off to the northwest.In August, 2014, the annual Floyd Yoga Jam was held in the area of Indian Valley, near the far west end of the county. It drew many different-colored license plates but seemed Very Floyd in its counterculture ambiance. The atmosphere of easy peace was disrupted only by the burbling of a stream filled with noisy, healthy-looking children. In the photo below, what is this circle of biomass and rocks? A mandala created from amaranth shoots, watermelon pieces, orchid petals….
Your author held a YogaJam FotoShoot with the cooperation of an acquaintance:
And of an unknown but friendly woman:
Taking a detour from the Jam to attend a meeting, Randall noticed a street sign for “Reedsville”–mentioned in earlier chapter, where his friend’s father had been born (Chapter 5). He turned around, snapped a photo, and couldn’t start his car. Within a minute a bunch of guys came to help, along with a woman and her encouragingly blue Jeep:Near the end of August the Floyd-Montgomery Jazz Project at Oak Grove Pavilion (behind Zion Lutheran Church) produced a melange of colors under the blue, red, white lights from the top. As Deb pulled and pushed the trombone slide, columns of mercury flitted up and down it as well as along the rest of the instrument. (Later when we crossed paths at Black Water Loft, she reported that her the bell of her saxophone is Sterling silver and the slide is nickel.) The house bulbs lit up the saxophone like votive candles dedicated to The God of Jazz. I asked the guitarist to name the color of his instrument and after a moment he chuckled: “Gibson red.” And the rich brown wood on the front of the bass fiddle? “Maple.”
In 2014 Passover Purple signs may have helped to rid Floyd County from a threat to its water, landscape, property values, health, and safety. An energy company moved the intended route of a pipeline so that it would just miss our hostile area. The tube, 42 inches in diameter, would have carried methane gas produced by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from West Virginia to North Carolina. One citizen bought 400 copies of the metal protests, fabricated by a company in Floyd, which were quickly sold or, after the route was changed, shipped to other counties.
As if in celebration, hardwood forests turned to fireworks:
* Ironically some of her lyrics expressed a jaundiced attitude toward the colors of this world, however metaphorical. Blando colore oculos mundus decepit–“With superficial show this world deceives the eye.” Spirat anguis inter flores et colores explicando tegit fel–“: the snake hisses as it uncoil itself among petals and beauty, concealing its venom.” From Vivaldi’s sacred motet, Nulla in mundo pax sincera. The anonymous text declares that Jesus is the source of all truth and peace amid a world of deception, punishment and torment. By contrast, Roy G. Biv’s irate deity (as recounted above) seems to regard worldly colors as worthy indeed, substantial enough to be extracted as punishment.