I remember. A carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a stick of butter. There are so many things I choose to remember: the times when lack was suddenly filled, when friends showed up least expected and when I realized that every day I receive everything I need for life and godliness. It’s as though it were yesterday. Oh yeah, it was yesterday. And today, too. I also hope tomorrow as well.
Lately, I’ve managed to paint a few rooms in my house, discover treasures in the transfer from one room to another, and reintroduce some muscles to their potential and then placate them with pain relievers subsequently thereafter. My office is now in order, functional and beautiful in autumn purple, jade and sea haze tones. I still remember the tractor green and blueberry tones that mere days ago were blazoned on these walls and there is a tinge of sadness as a goodbye was said to the little boy blue room.
Anyone who knows me knows that colour and tone is important. I remember tones and am relentless when ensuring unity in visual projects. While I typically say I can’t think in certain colours, I’m not entirely sure of whether it’s another genetic frenetic disposition or a true artistic trait. For now, let’s go with the “artist” thing. I remember colour, it has an affect on me.
Awhile back, I went on a tour of a beautiful heritage building that one of our internationally known community radio stations is now home to. It is stunning by all respects, the simplicity of the space, the warmth of each floor, the views of our great city. As I write, I can see unique space that shares the distinct commonality of community. It is people centred. For years, this artistic group has been squirrelled away in small cubbies, squished, experiencing lack while giving and giving to artists and community members. In those little rabbit holes, they discovered the joy of being together in community, sharing hardship and learning what family looks like in an organization. At least, this is what I gleaned from my tour, an overall wonder and thankfulness at their current positioning. I touched the spine of much loved vinyls that are still spun and that are finally in a bright, light filled space that is warm and deeply appreciated. The colours are perfect for their spaces, with art that reflects the vintage tones of their past with a freshness and vibrancy that speaks forward into what is to come. Each colour reflects community, artistic respect and wonder – I see how effective and affective it is in their space.
Moving as often as we and I have over the years, one part I love is the ability to constantly repaint walls. My sweetie and I choose mostly together, with myself as the final say for colours. This past summer, that fateful day in a discount department store, he should have known better. He could have predicted the outcome, but thankfully he didn’t or being the sweetheart he is, chose not to, when I gave him the sole choice between two different bedding sets that I found this summer that were on an amazing sale. He may have predicted and been fine with the implications of his choices – at this point it’s mute and I will, for a very brief moment, be mute. One of the joys of writing is that I don’t have to hear the resounding “as if….” when I make such ridiculous statements. The catch? One set would’ve matched our current colours and one had no possibility of doing so. Had I told him I would change the walls, he may have chosen the already matching set. But for two reasons I didn’t mention that: one, I wanted him to choose what he wanted regardless of the ramifications and two, I was bored of our current colour scheme (which I admit I totally chose before). And so, I repainted our room to harmonize with the bedding set he chose. What did I say when I was questioned about why I had to paint? “Sweetheart, you chose the bedding, remember?” To my credit, my friend and I painted; I wasn’t so cruel as to ask him to paint. There is now restored unity between my bedding and my walls and I am peaceful once again. Colour is affective and effective.
But what happens when I can’t orchestrate my colour schemes and dreams? For years, I have refused to even look at a silver car. My parents owned a gazillion of them(not all at once), and I despise pretty much all versions of silver vehicles. Charcoal, flint, gun metal are all the same to me and belong in outfits, jewelry and my mother’s beautiful hair. Just like I think of lemon as a cleaning fluid not a flavour, I prefer silver in almost anything but vehicles. However despised silver had become, the true unspoken bottom level of car colour was actually brown. It was so unspoken that I had never even considered it as a choice.
Unexpectedly, we became the hit portion of a hit and run awhile back and my beloved amethyst car was totaled. In a necessary hurry to get me wheels, we found a great vehicle. Except that it was brown. (And not just a basic brown, a muddy and not unlike unmentionable biological substances brown.) I gave the salesman my ranking of colours relaying that brown and silver are on the bottom. Even though I decidedly turned up my nose, my husband and I took it for a drive. It was easy to drive, comfortable, with lots of legroom for my six footers. As we sat in the dealership office, I tried to squint my eyes so that I could change my perspective on the whole brown colour issue. I hoped the car was secretly smaller and that in different lights it would glow golden. It didn’t. I secretly hoped the salesman would suddenly say that we could order in a cheaper, older, with less kilometres car that was amethyst? “Pollyanna” much? I realized to my chagrine that not only was it this car was the right car but alsothat I would have to somehow reconcile with the dreaded brown.
Lest I mislead you, let me be sure to say that I am so thankful for my car. Though not fully as for months, I desperately tried to rename its colour as “latte”, “cappuccino”, “bronze”, “frappucino” – anything but what it actually was. I tried to block the colour from affecting me while being thankful for its function and blessing. As I drove my new wheels around our great city, I discovered that it handled well, had great gas mileage, was extremely comfortable and equally wonderful on short or long trips.
I know that I am daily equipped with everything I need for life and godliness and it’s not an esoteric concept for me, but I never expected that this principle would be visible in the vehicle I drive. At the time of the demise of our vehicle, I had the sense that God had something better planned. While I loved my amethyst vehicle, it was well used, the mileage was getting way too high and it was a bit tight for space for our family. I was content with it. I wouldn’t have chosen a hit and run, nor the goose egg my youngest experienced and the subsequent ambulance bill, but I was thankful that we were safe. After all, a vehicle is just a thing. I knew that whatever car we would have next would be perfect for us, so I was fine with having a functional, albeit highly functional, vehicle that was not the colour of my dreams.
I love colour. It affects me and is effective within my life. I love to work with it. It’s a little silly that it took me so long to fully grasp this beautifully embedded principle within the unbeloved-by-me colour of brown. I should have seen it. Had I stopped for a moment to pray about why I had a brown car, I might have seen it sooner. Digging a bit deeper, there might be a darker reason why I didn’t?
Did you know that brown represents humility? I believe that humility is anyone’s greatest asset and especially for artists. For a musician to choose unity and to walk in service is very nearly the opposite of the vanity purported, purposed and promoted so often within entertainment fields. Every time I gig, I observe three much appreciated and loved bandmates who walk in humility, putting aside their own wants and needs to serve with kindness, respect, and dignity. In ten years, I have never seen any of them do anything less than their best with the utmost professionalism and humility in every situation regardless of difficulty. I am privileged to work alongside these gentlemen who have mentored me by their consistency and kindness, impacting me more than they will ever know.
With all certainty, I can tell you that no bandleader can orchestrate those kinds of choices or that consistency. Each musician has the option to choose it. It’s not easy and it takes discipline, but once you settle in together, the music becomes immediately richer and deeper, effective and affective. Humility in music looks like this: prioritizing the message of the music, the listener and your fellow musicians ahead of your own wants and needs while striving to offer your best. I personally believe that perfectionism is the enemy of truly beautiful music for it fans the flame of ego at the risk of alienating the listener and discounts the attractiveness of authenticity. Humility isn’t a piece of jewelry or that great little black dress. It’s something that has to permeate the way one goes wherever and however that may be.
Just like I drive in my brown car, I need to drive in humility in every aspect of my life. Do I do this consistently? I wish. I desire. I hope. I pray. But now, every time I step into the driver’s seat of my decidedly brown car, there is a daily reminder to drive carefully, with humility permeating every part of my life. I love that God planned for me to discover the necessity and the beauty of brown at this time. For I do receive daily everything that I need for life and godliness and I am so thankful.
So ask me what colour my car is now and I will thankfully, not proudly, tell you it’s brown. I have the opportunity and privilege to allow this colour to affect and thereby empower me to be effective. I do also hope that the road rage outbursts diminish but that is another conversation for another day.
How now, brown car? Where now, brown car?
(c) Sandra Foster, Ranenpur, October 28, 2013
How does colour affect you? In your travels, where have you seen humility at work and effective? Tell me about a time that you discovered the necessity and the beauty of humility. Would love to hear from you.