Last week a mathematician said green glow, aquamarine— and I suppose rare parrots or the searing rise of rice, aurora as it reels around the poles.
This week the man says oops, a miscalculation: the universe is amber— peach hair, cantaloupe, a squeal, the yellow cart of dawn pulled into day.
Show me the math, show me equations in green, gold, vermilion, plum— whatever comes out of the dark around us and the sun and all the sons and daughters of the stars— the universe a crystal, charmed, worn in the hollow of God’s throat and warmed.
Recently a friend forwarded me a cautionary e-mail. It reported that a couple in Canada had parked for an errand, and as they walked away from their car, the driver used the remote on his key fob to lock the doors. When the Can adians returned to their car five minutes later, it had been stripped of a laptop and a cell phone. The police were summoned.
Silence is misery, said a friend in a casual comment on the phone. Elizabeth spent three days with no one to interrupt her but her own fears. Lulls during which she noticed the buzz and pop, resting from the hike on a stone. Her retreat intended to evade noise, but she found the clawing of forest murder and distant yelps. That’s when she saw a tree, already turned the color of flame against the others’ ordinary green, like the great voice of one who had to speak. Not a word for three days, unable to resist the conversation released within. Slow sun upon a single tree that stands without explanation on the edge of the meadow with red leaves, a hawk glides above the landscape of pines between silence and speech.
One morning this summer I was basking in the sun With the brother closest to me in age. We had been Brought up almost as twins but then took disparate Roads, as twins do. He was sobbing and I was near Tears and the ocean was muttering. I heard a heron. We had been having the most naked open talk we’d Had in many years. I wanted to tell him how deeply I loved him but words are just so weak and shallow. So I talked about the forsythia bush we used to hide Under together. It was the safest place on the planet. The light was always amazing in there and it wasn’t Ever muddy somehow and you were draped in gold. It was a hut a huddle a tent a canopy a cave a refuge. Sometimes you have to use a thing to say something Else. We do this all the time. We talk sideways, yes? But sidelong is often the only road that gets to where You know you need to go. So much means lots more Than it seems like it could mean. Tears, for example.
John Coleman, who died recently, presided over Haverford College during the tumultuous Vietnam War era. He sympathized with students’ antiwar protests but also tried to channel the antiwar movement in constructive ways. When students considered burning the American flag, Coleman placed a washing machine at the center of the campus and encouraged students to wash the flag instead. He persuaded dozens of college presidents to sign an antiwar statement. On sabbaticals he took blue-collar jobs to explore the gap between academics and workers (Inside Higher Ed, September 12).