between-our-steps-06-14-17-doubleThe first colour of spring is yellow. When winter's white melts, pale yellow stalks of cattails stand tall. Lacey remnants of asters wave above the withered grass. Then, forsythia flares with the colour of sunshine. A few green leaves sprout, and daffodils trumpet the growing warmth of sun.

A hint of green in the lawn and sun-bright dandelions arrive. In hay fields, to the dismay of farmers who see the extensive spaces where the weed pushed back the valued feed, a blanket of yellow erupts. Bees with stripes of black and yellow, bees the yellow-brown colour of honey hover and buzz, gathering the first offered nectar of the season.

Grass greens and grows. Leaves sprout on trees covering brown-grey limbs with green. This colour of growth takes over--and this is good because the green comes from the cells that nourish the life of plants. More yellow in the midst of the green as marsh marigolds flower.

Tulip leaves spread and a stem grows with a tight bulb hiding its colour. Slowly the silky-smooth petals push the bulb open revealing cracks of colour. What is revealed is a rainbow of possibilities. Tulips can be clear colours, such as white, red and yellow, or every pastel shade of pink. Many are variegated. This year there is a Canada flower with a maple-leaf pattern of white and red. I have one that is almost black absorbing light and warmth in its soft smooth petals.

The first hint of purple shows in the lawn and in the forest with violets and creeping charlie.

Where I sit to write I watch the honeysuckle buds break into leaf. Then, small buds swell red before erupting into fragrant pink. The colour is delicate but the scent is strong, and soon the bush is full of bees.

This is when the allium bursts into purple. For days I have been watching the leaves spread, the stem sprout tall, the flower bud swell. Suddenly it flares open into rich, strong, brilliant balls of purple. Fragrant as the honeysuckle, bees crawl over it, hover between flowers, collect a bountiful gift.

More purple comes soon. In the wetland, blue flag blooms it's draping flowers a blue purple, and in the garden its cousin the iris shows the depth of purple. Bright, reflecting light and shining, these flowers look warm, are warm to the touch. Absorbing light, the colour has depth and intensity.

It is said that purple is both red and blue at the same time. The colour is warm and cool, absorbing light and reflecting it, shining and drawing in. Flame and sky in one place.

Purple is a fascinating colour. I have a purple sari that has not one thread of that colour in it. The warp is blue. The weft is red. The cloth shimmers purple. And I have read that while the cool colour violet is a spectrum colour, part of the rainbow when light is divided, purple is not. For us to see purple, both red and blue must be present.

In her story The Color Purple, one of Alice Walker's characters says that she thinks it pisses God off when people walk by the purple without noticing. In her non-fiction writing, she makes other claims about purple and its intensity, complexity, and depth.

I know that the colours of tulips and irises have been manipulated by people, but purple is naturally present in the small violet flowers, in the tiny petals of creeping charlie.

Creeping charlie is defined as a weed. It does spread as easily as forget-me-nots. But its leaf is complex, shaped like a scallop and the green is touched with yellow and orange. And the flowers, tiny as they are, shine purple. When it crowds the roses or pushes back the few annuals I plant, I reluctantly thin it. But I will not remove it because I will not destroy something that blooms purple.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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