Editor’s Desk: Playing Dress-Up and Flowers

 Playing dress-up – to luxuriate in colors, the fabrics, the endless choices. Sometimes when I pick out something flowing it reminds me of the late 1950s film with Rosalind Russell playing “Auntie Mame” sweeping down a spiral staircase with gossamer robes swirling about her.

Color has actual healing qualities. Sometimes I feel like gray. What does gray mean? Actually, oftentimes I choose gray. Why am I so attracted to gray? Gray the color of mist – The color of low iron clouds in a drizzling rain – The color of roly-poly bugs that live under rocks and when the rock is lifted, they roll up like perfectly round marbles. I want to roll up like them with their grey coats that act like nature’s chainmail. Gray—it’s a very protective color.

I pull on my gray flowing Palazzo pants and a white blouse with the ruffle down the front adding a flowing grey vest that, surprisingly enough, I bought at CVS drug store of all places. It’s silky, and flowing, and reaches down to the back of my knees. I choose a necklace of grey river rocks wrapped in silver. Gray and silver. Silver reflects the moon. Silver is the moon. Gray and silver. When I take the vest off, I fling it on to the chair in my bedroom. It’s an extravagant gesture and it decorates my wicker chair, reminding me of a Renaissance still-life painting: the wicker chair, the gray patterned vest draped carelessly over the arm and spilling on to the floor.

I love playing dress-up. I love choosing the perfect hat, the perfect earrings, the perfect necklace, the perfect scarf, the perfect shoes, the perfect color, the perfect fabric to match my mood. And then strolling out into the world as a painting myself. I love to turn heads in the grocery store just like that woman who turned my head in the Ukiah Co-op. She was older with her gray hair topped by a French beret and something very, very eye-catching adorning her body. She made me wonder; “Who is this woman?” She’s so strikingly attractive in her eldership. She must have many tales to tell. I‘d love to sit with her over a glass of wine and a plate of cheese. Maybe, just maybe others are thinking about me that way as I wander through the vegetables in Safeway and as I snake my way past the floral department. It’s the profusion of colors that attracts my eye; I bend down and smell a mixed bouquet. I’m tempted to buy them but know my budget just won’t allow it.

My grandmother always had cut flowers. She kept a garden and grew flowers just for the cutting and would always have several arrangements in the front hall of our ancestral home. She and her women friends formed the first garden club of their small rural town. They would have flower arranging competitions. I sigh as I call to mind past times when one had time to grow flowers just for the cutting and arranging and putting in the foyers to meet any guest who happened to call.

– Justine Willis Toms