A growing luminescence  

About six years ago, I did that thing women of a certain age aren’t “supposed” to do: I stopped colouring my hair. Soon afterward, a female acquaintance of similar vintage felt compelled to provide a report, which she delivered with a combination of concern and competitive glee, on the number of shady interlopers congregating in back, suggesting I was overdue for a salon visit.

Going au naturel, so to speak, evokes an astonishingly visceral reaction. How dare I actually choose to do so? After all, the right shade, savvy marketers purr, will make all the difference. You will still be you, but a better you, defying the slings and arrows of Mother Nature and Father Time through a shimmering, multi-dimensional forcefield. If it doesn’t work out, just pick another colour. With a little effort, a fair bit of cash, and a slightly itchy scalp, you can not only look glam, but also fight the clock!

Do not curse me, manufacturers and purveyors of hair-colour products, for I’m sure I kept you solvent in my many years of trying to keep up appearances. And not just for grey coverage, but style. More than once I left the salon with something far too dramatic, acquiescing to the whims of stylists and, after wincing repeatedly at my reflection, sought a home remedy to tone it down. The result was usually odd with copper highlights. Then I’d wash it multitudinous times to fade it, tie it back and vow to never do the same again.

Until I did. There’s something mesmerizing about what happens in that salon chair, whether it’s sitting primly while adorned with a crown of foil – a look that could easily be mistaken for an attempt to receive alien radio signals instead of highlights – or the subdued calm induced by tightly bundled plastic wrap for colour processing. Call it the magic of anticipation; the promise of crowning glory.

I attempted to rediscover my natural colour in my 30s, thinking I’d just get it back to “normal” and leave it alone, scouring the aisles of permanent and semi-permanent hues for the ever-elusive match. During this Holy-Grail quest, an intriguing new trend surfaced amongst younger women as they took the shades once designed to ease women into senior citizenry and inverted them, showing brunette, ginger and flaxen roots atop greyscale locks. ‎At first, I thought it was a bold feminist statement, but I ultimately realized it to be no different than the incipient expressions of individuality my friends and I experimented with in our teens. Back then, lemon juice and sunshine were all you needed.

Despite the pleas and thinly veiled disdain, I’m sticking to the plan and avoiding the telltale stripe that is a recurring side-effect of colouring beyond a certain time. The first two years were moderately dreadful, but with a modicum of patience – all right, an abundance of patience – you, too, can discover and embrace your authentic shade after years of colouring. Mine turned out to be chocolate brown with a touch of auburn and a growing luminescence. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of bling.

Putting a value on art

Art is as intrinsic to modern life as it was to cultures thousands of years ago. Whether an evocative painting, a whimsical installation, stunning architecture, music that creates gooseflesh, a film that leads you to unabashedly roar with laughter or quietly weep in a theatre of strangers, a book that makes you miss your stop, or the performance that inspires both awe and connectedness, the soul value of art is priceless.

It is at the root of our curiosity and our creativity; one naturally feeds the other. Art enhances our ability to maintain delight in the everyday as well as the extraordinary. Art is not an esoteric kingdom where only the well-heeled can live; it is the essential joy of expression – the pride on a child’s face when revealing a masterpiece in crayon.

Art provides experiences that can change your perspective on life, history, nature, the universe (your pick) forever. That’s about as fundamental as it gets on this human journey. We value art because it is how we discover, define and celebrate life.

Punctuation is not a crime

Why, suddenly, do people hate the comma? Did one force some clarity? Did an em dash add something cheeky? Did an apostrophe possess an unsuspecting subject?

Fear not, punctuation marks; I will defend you. You are full of character. You accentuate. You applaud! You provide context. Where would we be without you? ‎Lost, confused, disorganized, and in a bit of a muddle, I reckon. Let’s take a look, shall we?

“I like eating, the smell of summer rain, and my pets.”

Without the commas: “I like eating the smell of summer rain and my pets.”

I beg your pardon?

The semicolon need not perplex; rather, it gives pause. It aids contemplation. We don’t pause enough in our rapid world. Thank you, semicolon, for reminding us to breathe.

Colons create drama and suspense: they are the orchestra leaders of the English language. When you see one, you know something big is coming next, like a crescendo of fact or a list of reasons.

And there’s the em dash, that lively and vibrant storyteller, giving us hints and peeks, like an actor turning to the camera and winking. Some people dislike them—thinking them vain or disruptive, perhaps—but I think they’re dandy, like a conspiratorial sideways glance.

Exclamation marks have never been more popular, often used in an attempt to be heard over the din of voluminous content saturating our existence. But even they are losing their spark due to overuse. We might as well just go back to the period.

People. Like. To. Use. Periods. Like. This. For. Emphasis. Such a method works well on occasion, particularly for irony. Periods cut to the chase and draw conclusions. We need them. Full stop.

It’s the lowly comma, sadly, that appears to be most at risk of an untimely death. I, for one, still love what it can do.

Comparing apples

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

From the Fibonacci of phlox and forget-me-nots to the extraordinary resilience of a garden-variety dandelion, many lessons can be gleaned from nature. Strong as an oak. Red as a rose. Blue as the sky. Quiet as a mouse. Noisy as an oyster.

“A noisy oyster?” you ask. Everything is possible in a metaphor.

When contemplating the nature of transformational change, it helps to think about nature itself, comparing apples to, well, apples.

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Further reading on: leaders, leadership and change management.