Birds are magical to me . . . at least when flying from the large oak trees surrounding our house into the bird feeders we provide. When they slam into our sliding glass door, which a few have done, they lose a little bit of that magic.
When my husband was first dealing with his lymphoma diagnosis, he said that the Goldfinches in our backyard were his magic potion. They brought him joy and gave him hope. So, we went to our favorite nature store named Yard Birds.
I talked to the owner, Mark Ackerman, about my need.
Me: We want to feed the finches while they’re around, because they leave in the winter and are replaced by a bunch of little gray birds who aren’t nearly as pretty.
Mark: Actually, the male Goldfinches become gray in the winter, then they molt in the spring and get their bright yellow plumage for mating purposes.
I was a little embarrassed that I ignored the Goldfinches in the winter because they turned gray. I still fed them, I just didn’t delight in them. I suddenly felt like the Mean Girl of finches everywhere, judging them only on their appearance.
Learning to Love the Gray
I think I have the addiction many of us have to the big, the flamboyant, the over-the-top part of life that is all color and light. Why else was the yellow brick road so very yellow? Why do we yearn to find a pot of gold?
What if someone said, “Follow the little gray road?” Would we skip down it? What if they said, “At the end of a rainbow is a pot of gray money.” Would that make our hearts yearn for it?
Why did so many favor Liberace over Merv Griffin? Or Ronald Reagan over Gerald Ford?
Perhaps it’s because there’s a part of us that knows we come from something big and luminous, and it feels like home.
I have spent my life dreading gray days and mundane moments. But, as I age, I’m starting to value the different hues of gray.
I’m learning that nights on the couch holding the hand of my husband as we watch Fixer Upper is a lovely shade of gray.
Talking to my son and daughter every night about the activities of their lives might not be exciting, but it makes my heart feel complete.
Laughing with a friend over lunch is simple yet strangely energizing.
Getting in bed after buying my new Egyptian Cotton sheets while reading the latest Anne Lamott book is the best kind of gray.
Robert Figured it Out
I love Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” When asked to memorize a poem in college I chose this one because it was short, much like the time in Vacation Bible School when I chose “Jesus wept” as my memory verse. I’m pretty sure my disgusted VBS teacher alluded to the fact that laziness like mine is why Jesus wept in the first place.
Regardless, there’s something about the comfort of gray that is growing on me, and it’s not just because it’s the color my hair is turning. As I age, I value it because within the gray of each day falls our family conversations that slowly build memories. Within the gray of predictability are the annual camping vacations my family took that created golden stories in later years.
Often it is the gray moments of this day that provide us with gold in the future.
So, in my life, I deem both gray and gold equally welcome. Because within each is the potential of the other.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.