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  • nancywaldman

Learning Our Colours

In honour of my granddaughter, Cadi who will be five on Wednesday.

2007 —

One June day while in Maine, I pick up my two-year-old granddaughter, Acadia, so that her daddy can have a little time alone. He’s her single and sole parent. I live a very long day’s drive away but come as frequently as possible—both to give my son a break and to give Cadi a sense of extended family and a little feminine influence. This evening, Cadi asks to “see the water,” so we stop several times during the short drive between my son’s house and my rented cottage. She holds tightly to one of my fingers when we get out of the car to take nature walks. This has been one of those sharp late spring days when the new warmth, ultra-blue sky and the fresh, young leaves and grasses combine for a short-lived clarity. It will all soon blur into summer fullness—rich, deep green, hot, but no longer new. I point things out to Cadi and she—seeing things from a different point of view—does the same for me. We note a seagull overhead. We collect a feather and a pine cone. We listen to the sound the water makes as it rushes over the rocks and to the hum of spring insects. In another spot, we watch the rowdy games of the fascinating-to-Cadi older boys playing on the other side of the street. We talk about colours. The green grasses, some as tall as Cadi. A blue-gray heron in the distance. White cherry blossoms. Purple lilacs. Red ladybug. Cadi’s only just learning her colours. She has the concept, but the specifics are still in process. Sometimes she gets them right and sometimes she doesn’t. Our last stop is on the side of the road near a wetlands area with a view of the mountains of Acadia National Park in the distance. This spot, with its marshy, tidal ponds is always stunningly beautiful whether the day is sunny, foggy, rainy or icy. As the sun goes down, I hold Cadi while snapping a dozen photos. The sky is layered with criss-crossing clouds. The vivid colours multiply in intensity as they reflect in the water below. These pools are perfectly calm except for subtle ripples, the dot-dot-dots of insects. Cadi stays quiet and patient while I try to capture the changing light.

After my memory card is full, I think about Cadi learning her colours and say, “The sky is usually blue, remember? And the clouds are white?” She nods, eyes on the sunset. “But, just before it gets dark, when the sun is going away for the night, the sky changes into lots of different colours.” I begin to name them. “Pink.” “Orange.” “Violet.” “L’ellow,” whispers Cadi, her gaze fixed on the still-vibrant light before us. “Oh yes, yellow,” I say, full of delight that she is seeing what I see, full of the magnificent display before us, and full of contentment that she is with me so fully.

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