It is that time of year in Wisconsin when everyone talks about how dingy, dirty and gray everything looks outside. Many of our days are overcast, the snow has partially melted and is dotted with dirt, salt and grass, and there is not yet any hint of buds on the trees. I took a drive out to the house to check up on things and was thinking about the common description of how depressing and ugly our monochromatic world is this time of year.
As I drove, I really started to concentrate on the scene rolling in front of me. For the most part, the tableau consisted of a simple mixture of grayscale with accents of rust, copper and beige. It seemed very dreary in contrast to the bright colors of the passing cars, homes, signage and other miscellany. But I didn’t give up, trying to use my mind to filter out the mostly gaudy and unnatural features, and a subtle beauty began to emerge. The muted tones and slight variations of grays and browns really do have much more to offer if you really stop and look. As I passed a kitschy log cabin restaurant, adorned with alternating green and gold logs in honor of our beloved Green Bay Packers, I couldn’t help but shudder at how it ruined the understated scenery behind it.
Traveling further north, the distractions became more rare, and the vistas became much more enjoyable. I realized that even the last bastions of color had dimmed themselves to become more harmonious elements of the seasonal artwork. Our typically vibrant evergreen trees looked as if they have adopted russet overcoats, to bring themselves in line with the color scheme. Even the bright yellow branches of the willow trees have aligned themselves to be just a shade different than the dormant switch grass. As I looked out my picture window at the ice gleaming on the pond, surrounded by a sepia sprinkled grayscale scene, there was nothing to betray the natural pre-spring palette. Seeing an amazing array of only gray and brown shades, I studied the vast mosaic for a long time. In a uniquely understated and delicate way, it possessed great beauty.
I cannot argue with common observations that almost everything this time of year is devoid of color. I also have to admit that much of what is left of our snowfall isn’t the clean, fluffy white powder that originally descended upon us. But I do take exception to the depressing and ugly judgement handed down by masses. I don’t believe it is any less beautiful than the rest of the year; it is simply much less obvious and struggles to compete with the unnatural glitz and glamor of the modifications we have made to most of our surroundings. So maybe it is time to get out and take a drive. Get out past the neon, the cars and the buildings. Get out and go see if you see what I see.