When I sit at my tan desk, in our beige room, with dull buff carpet beneath my chair, I often have a hard time coming up with color words. I google “synonyms for green,” rifle through crayon boxes, and scroll through images of paint chips and artists’ color names, but I am not usually inspired by what I find.
Then today, in an effort to wring the last few drops of fun out of summer before the kids go back to school, we rode our bikes over to the Virginia Tech horticulture garden, where they love to play in the sprinklers and find flowers in the colors of the rainbow (“Here’s a red one!”, “I found orange berries!”). I had folded up a blog post draft and stuck it, along with a pen, in my back pocket so that I could work on it in the quiet of the gardens while the kids played, and as I scribbled and edited, walking the mulched paths, filling the page with ink, I saw a pale green hydrangea.
“Hey guys, here’s green,” I said.
“Oh, flowers!” our daughter said when she saw them. “We don’t usually find green flowers, we just use leaves for green.”
I studied the hydrangea petals, trying to determine their color, and thought, celadon. Is that what color celadon is?
I looked around and saw banana leaves, fir trees, weeping willows, and thought, these are each a different green – dark and glossy for banana leaves, shadowy blue-green for firs, a soft yellow-green for willow. Each plant species is its own hue. And so I started writing. I’m not usually a write-on-my-hand type of person, but my paper was full, and I needed these words.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“I’m writing down all the greens I see,” and wrote sage. “What greens do y’all see?”
They shrugged, as if that were a dumb question, and then our daughter said, “Shamrock.” Yeah, she’s good.
“Inch worm,” said our son.
They ran off to play in the sprinkler, and I sat and filled my hand. A few minutes later they came back dripping, and our daughter said, “We saw some algae in the pond that looked like troll skin.”
“Troll skin! That’s perfect,” I said, and wrote it down.
“Troll skin isn’t a color,” said our son.
“Sure it is – it’s silvery blue-green and warty.”
“Yeah,” said our daughter, “that’s what color the algae was – it was even bubbly like warts.”
On the bike ride home, the kids shouted out more words – “pea,” “yellow-green,” and “olive” – and when I saw my friend Dee, she asked, “Did you get peridot?” Now, thanks to their assistance, and to inspiration from the gardens, when I am sitting in our neutral living room, trying to conjure color words, I have an entire page in my lexicon dedicated to the color green:
Special thanks to my friend Dee for peridot, and to our children for shamrock, pea, inch worm, sea, olive, troll skin, and booger.