Something slightly more serious than usual (Don’t worry, silly doodles will be back soon). Earlier this week I came across the picture writing challenge at another fine blog, Cognitive Reflection, and decided to give it a go. Below is a short story based on this picture of some moody waves.
There is a place on the coast, close to where I live, where the sun sets in black and white. Not only sets, but rises, and hangs throughout the day, with not a hint of its usual amber warmth. It is a natural phenomenon, much like the northern lights, though with the colour drained away. The spectacle stretches for about a mile along the beach; on either side the sand is golden, the sea darkened blue green and the sky becomes whatever hue it feels like on each certain day. Then, the colour simply runs out. The yellow sand merges into a pitch of pavement grey. The water darkens further still until it is black, but for the white crests of waves that ride down to the shore. The sky is grey, as are the clouds, and when it rains the raindrops can barely be seen for they too are grey, until they reach the surface of the ocean to become a part of darker depths.
To those unfamiliar with my home this sounds like a marvel. But, like most wonders of the world, the locals barely bat their eyelids while outsiders flock to see them like crows to a corn field. As for me, I try to maintain my respect for the black and white beach, reminding myself at times how I felt when I first set eyes on it, twenty years ago. It was the sense of natural awe you might predict, except that it felt muted. In an appealing way.
I still take pleasure in introducing strangers to the scene, and so you can imagine my delight when my niece, eleven years old, came to visit, and asked to see the beach. We walked together to the coastline one evening, and I insisted she cover her eyes until we had walked well past the line of colour. When she lowered her hands, I waited for a gasp, or a subtler smile, but it didn’t come. She looked left to right and back again, before staring up at me.
‘It’s just black and white,’ she said. ‘Like a photograph. An old one.’
I was a little taken aback by this attitude. ‘Isn’t it beautiful, though? Like an old photograph? Or an old film? They can be great, in a different sort of way.’
She shrugged. ‘It’s just black and white. There’s nothing more to say.’
She turned to leave, but I took her hand.
‘Why?’ she said, ‘I’ve already seen it all.’
But she hadn’t. She had seen the black and white, but not between those lines. I insisted she stay a little longer, so that we could watch the sun set together.
I said to her, ‘See the blacks and whites, but they aren’t the only colours. Look at the greys.’
‘The grey?’ she asked.
‘Greys,’ I insisted. ‘See how many there are. They’re so alike that they seem to blend together, but they are by no means the same. There are thousands and thousands of greys, and you could spend a lifetime trying to count them all.’
Together we looked at the myriad of colours, where we once thought there had been only two. And as the cold white sun sank over the horizon, I looked to my right, and saw my young niece’s eyes begin to widen.