The Colors of the World

There must be some subliminal messaging going on in the world these days. It seems that every time I open my eyes, I’m seeing two colors everywhere: blue and yellow. It’s not as simple as the proximity of blue and yellow on the electromagnetic spectrum; after all, Mr. and Mrs. Green live comfortably between those two hues. Something else is afoot. Hmmm…

The other evening, I was fortunate enough to watch the sun set over the Caribbean Sea and instead of seeing the usual crimsons and golds I often associate with the end of day, there they were again: blue and yellow. The next morning, my wife and I took a walk into town and there they were again: a seaside restaurant painted in bold blue and yellow; yellow buoys floating serenely across a pastel blue inlet; a tiny bird bejeweled with bright yellow and blue feathers waiting for breakfast crumbs. What had begun as a one-time phenomenon had phased first into a series of odd coincidences and then into an unmistakable universal messaging board telling me I had better start paying close attention to other events unfolding half a world away.

The messaging didn’t end in the Caribbean. When we returned home last night, my wife and I tuned into the first episode of a new season of one of our favorite television shows. As we settled in to watch, it seemed to me that every other scene featured subtle background shots featuring blue and yellow: a Vermeer blue headscarf in front of soft yellow sunlight streaming through a window; a yellow house under a pastel blue sky; a field of flowers—guess their colors. “Odd,” I thought. “This episode must have been shot months ago; why am I seeing it like this now?” In the five previous seasons, I had never noticed an underlying color theme lurking in the background. Why now? Why these colors? Was there some post-production trick of cinematography that cast original scenes literally in a new light?

Or am I seeing the world differently? I think I know the answer.

In Ukraine, brutal aggression has been met with brave resistance. A few months ago, few of us would have recognized the Ukrainian flag: blue over yellow; a cloudless sky over a field of sunflowers. Now, the world watches and holds its breath as cities are decimated, hospitals are bombed, children flee, and brave men and women fight to the death for their homeland. Now, the colors blue and yellow are painting a new picture, an image of heroic resistance against an overwhelming red tide that is bent on destroying everything in its path. In the short term, the tragic outcome seems inevitable, but the truth of the longer term hasn’t yet been sketched, let alone painted. America, our European friends, and our allies around the world are doing what we can, but despite our best intentions and the not inconsequential effect of sanctions, we can’t seem to stem the tide and secure a different outcome. Our efforts feel colorless.

Blue and yellow are hardly despondent colors. On the contrary; I always found them to be cheerful, bright, hopeful. We’ll see. While physicists may be able to explain the universe by means of the electromagnetic spectrum, that explanation floats way above my pay grade. All I know is this: that Caribbean sunset I saw last week? It was a prayer for Ukraine. Please say it with me.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *