The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

What I Miss Most - Nature's Colors

By Wm. Axley Allen © 1984-2012

Issue: July, 1984

At first I wasn't sure if the old man had heard my question or not, but slowly he lifted his head, pushed back his hat and started to speak. "Well now," he said, "I reckon the thing I miss most about the good old days is there weren't so many colors then." Seeing the questioning look on my face, he proceeded to explain. "Folks now days take colors for granted and they don't seem so meaningful anymore. Why, when I was a lad, we lived in a plain log cabin. Weren't no paint on our farm. Even the roof was shingles that Pa had split with a froe and sweat. At night time the fireplace glow or a lantern flame offered dancing colors for us younguns to admire and dream on. There weren't many man made colors on our farm, even our clothes were homemade and simple. Nowadays, just look around you. Everything is colored. Your soup even comes in a two colored can.”

“Now don't get me wrong, there was color to our place, but it came with the seasons, not on four wheels. There were apple blossoms every spring and bright red apples every fall and a world of nature's colorful beauty in between. Back then the world was alive with the colors of nature, still is but now nature gets overlooked and overwhelmed by all this man made color. A hillside of honeysuckle or ivy blooming was an awesome sight for these old eyes 75 years ago. And dandelions were the farm's decorations. Now don't get me wrong. I still love the colors of nature. It's just that I think they meant more if you can remember that once they were the world's only colors. After a snowed in Blue Ridge winter up in the hollow, the first purple violets were a sight for dreary eyes as well as a promise of brighter days ahead.”

Slowly the old fellow's head fell forward until his chin was resting on his chest. A faint snore barely reached my ear as I looked beyond the front porch where we sat. Beyond the unpainted house was a grey weathered barn with a flame azalea in full bloom beneath its eaves. Countless times I have gasped at the beauty of such an azalea, but here in a mountain farm yard where color was left to nature, I first fully understood the magnitude of the spectacle I had so often taken for granted.

Stepping lightly off the porch, I eased into my car and let it roll down the road a ways before starting, so as not to awaken my old friend. There on the seat beside me was my yellow note pad and my red pen, but in my mind was a renewed appreciation of nature's beauty; a gift from an old man that remembered the splendor of color.