Green With Envy

Green With Envy

Sue Wasserman

Story and photos by Sue Wasserman

Jack in the pulpit
Jack in the pulpit

I don’t remember how old I was when I became enamored of the word “hue.” Thanks to a mom who took my sister and me to the library every week, whether we’d finished our books or not, it’s hard to remember a time when words didn’t hold a powerful sway over me.

While I seldom use it, the word burst to mind moments after I started meandering along Porters Creek. I wondered if anyone knows exactly how many hues of green nature has in her possession. Wispy, bold, blended with hints of this or that color—could they ever be completely catalogued?

Moments later, the first two lines of Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” were magically triggered. I laughed as the lines came to life:

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold

Oh, how I would love to have been with Frost when he penned what feels to me like one of the most insightful, albeit slightly sad, odes to nature’s fleetingness. As always, the noticing felt most important. On such a glorious blue-sky day, it felt like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and friends arrived in the technicolor land of Oz.

Common wood sorrel
Common wood sorrel

Despite my green fascination, there was, of course, no way I wanted to miss the blossoms du jour. The camouflage-green petals of trillium luteum lay in lovely contrast to the green Christmas fern cozying up next to it. Thanks to the fact that purple and green are two of my favorite colors, I found it next to impossible to pry myself away from the dwarf-crested iris whose thick green fronds seemed tinged with a hint of yellow. I felt the same way about my encounter with common wood sorrel whose leaves feel so refreshingly light, especially standing as they do against the pastel pink, yellow, and white of the petite flower.

A dear painter friend, when asked if she had names for the multitude of greens, suggested I think of them in terms of vegetables, an idea which resonated when I encountered a pale Jack-in-the-pulpit. It seemed to me a lovely celery green. Not all Jacks, however, are created equal. Some are adorned in darker green stripes that perhaps appear darker because of the maroon pulpit highlights that tend to accompany them.

The more I thought about it, as much as I loved my friend’s idea, I realized conjuring vegetable shades was no picnic either. That’s when it dawned on me that, just maybe, it didn’t matter how many hues of green exist. Given individual perceptions, my description of green is simply my description of green.

What makes most sense to me is to wholeheartedly encourage you to throw on your walking shoes and see it for yourself because, as Frost wrote, “nothing gold can stay,” except in your mind’s eye, where I like to think it can live on indefinitely!

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Sue Wasserman is the author of A Moment’s Notice and Walk with Me: Exploring Nature’s Wisdom. She has also written for the New York Times and Southern Living. Sue is the 2022 Steve Kemp Writer-in-Residence.

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