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Of Gray and Other Colours

If you take the same route to and from work everyday, you can take the scenery for granted. I usually do. Seattle is like most major cities in the U.S.: A sea of bright cars flow down rivers of asphalt, flanked by canyons on steel and glass. You are lost in the motion, like flotsam waiting to wash-up on some barren, uncaring shore called work.
Of course, along the stream there are bright splashes. Most of them are some form of solicitation, tempting you to buy some product or use some service. We all ignore those distractions to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, our self-imposed blinders sometimes limit our field of view more than they should. We can miss real color, brightness and light.

Throughout Seattle, there are random art displays in various places. Some are more obvious than others to find. A few miles from my work in the Ballard neighborhood, someone, or group, painted a mural under an overpass. It's been there a long time, and I hardly notice it much anymore. I'm no art expert, but in my humble opinion, it's not that great of a mural. The figures are crude, the shapes simplistic and the overall power of the image is... lacking. Yet, it is a splash of colour where only gray would normally lurk. The blob-like figures greet me every day as I ready myself for the indignities of a blue-collar existence. I take them for granted, as much as they harmlessly grace the barren wall and judge not.
I don't remember when I first noticed the graffiti covering the mural. A few years ago, after a graffiti attack, a crew of young folks appeared one weekend and painstakingly repainted the mural. Weeks later, as I drove past, the blob-people on the wall seemed to smile. It was as if they were just happy to be on display, in all their mediocre glory. I smiled back.
The cretins recently returned, scribbling their non-sensical gibberish over the mural. The mural sat scarred for a long while. I remember feeling hurt, in a way that's hard to describe. It wasn't so much of a pain as an absence of feeling. I felt grey.

Last Tuesday, when I saw the woman, it took me a minute to figure out what she was doing. Her gray hair was pulled back, and her hand moved back and forth along the wall. Her motions were smooth and flowing, slow and deliberate. As I passed, I saw where the fresh paint covered the graffiti scars. As she wiped her brow with the back of her hand, I imagined her as Georgia O'Keeffe of perhaps Freida. But she was not. She was better.
I took a deep breath as I pulled away. I don't know why she was the only one there. I only know that some crudely drawn figures under a bridge were grateful that at least one person cared. OK... I thought it was pretty cool as well.

A little color goes a long way.


Update: The clean-up crew was back the other day and finished repairing the mural. Perhaps a temporary victory, but a win for the good guys nonetheless. One day at a time...

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