If I had to choose a favorite colour, it would be green. But, in truth, I am not a monochromatic person. I like colours. I like combinations of colours. I like a riot of colours. My favorite combination of colours is green and yellow. If you know me, you know I like to wear colours. (After all, the most colourful birds are usually the males of the species.) I also like polychromatic paintings and dislike dark, monochromatic canvases. My favorite era of painting is the Impressionists, where artists explored the play of light and shadow on colourful scenes. My favorite season is the fall, where the colours bleed all over each other in wild profusion, especially in the northeast US and eastern Canada. It is my favorite season, the one I miss the most in Niger even though it is the prelude to winter, my least favorite season. I love beautiful, colourful scenery. I also like colourful people and vibrant personalities.
After living for the past 22 years in a country where everything is usually a drab, monochromatic grayish-orange, I appreciate beautiful places and lots of colour. Sometimes when we arrive back in the US in the summer after four long years in Niger, the green grass and heavily-forested hills hurt our eyes. It is definitely a sight for sore eyes. We have been seared by the hot sun and the glare of the Saharan landscape, and our eyes have grown dim. The green of the US, by contrast, is blinding. We haven't seen anything so lush and green in a long while. Huge lawns and sweeping golf courses stretch to the horizon. Hills are covered with trees in full leaf. Everywhere you look, there are flowers or trees or rivers or hills. I try to keep my eyes open while we are in the US, looking for gorgeous scenes to file in my memory for a time in Niger when everything seems drab, colourless, discouraging, and lifeless.
God has created so much variety in this world, and every place and every country has its beauty. In Niger, the beauty is more veiled, but if you watch out for it, you will find it. It might be a brilliantly-coloured bird. Or it will be a dazzling sunset. Or maybe a flower with a particularly bright hue. Just when I think I can't stand the monochromatic, drab landscape any more, God surprises me with a disply of His splendor, like the sunset we saw on our way home to Tera around Christmas, 2004 (see photo). His reminders are everywhere, and in a country where beauty is not so obvious, it gives you more appreciation for what is beautiful and colourful.
Ironically, people in Niger don't see colours the way we do in America. In the Songhai language, there are only six words for colours, and three of them have been borrowed from French. For instance, they don't distinguish between orange, red, and pink. Flowers are meaningless if they don't serve some utilitarian purpose like food or some necessity of life. People are so preoccupied trying to find the basic necessities of life, they don't have time for aesthetic pursuits. Dirt and garbage are everywhere, and life is drab and colourless for most people.
I want to be a colourful person, always enjoying God's creation and the colours He has put in this world. I want to appreciate beauty, and I'm glad we have many words for colours in English. For my American friends, you've probably noticed I've used the English spelling for the word "colour." I hope you aren't offended by that. They invented the language. It certainly adds colour to our language when we disagree over the spelling of some words. I like to do things differently sometimes. It's part of the colour God has placed within me. Aren't you glad for all the colour in the world?
The Most Important Visit We've Ever Made
6 months ago