What it’s all about.
The flowers don’t care a whit about pandemics. And bless their glorious little hearts for that.
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.
Apple blossoms in spring. Glorious!
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.
She found herself at the same corner again. Again, for the third time in a week. Perhaps it was fate…or, more likely, her own design; her own desire to go back.
Things were different then; then, when she felt anxious to move on. Or had she been anxious not to move on? Had she looked for reasons to remain unchanged, even while feeling desperate to change?
Then, she’d looked at the men her own age and simply couldn’t see the point. To her, they were young and beautiful and boring. She looked elsewhere. They weren’t her professors, after all. To them, she was young and beautiful and bored. She took their tuition. Methodically.
She wondered where they were now. They might be pushing up daisies. One even tried to marry her, woebegone his grand romantic gestures couldn’t melt her cynicism.
She climbed the ladder instead. All in for twenty years. And now, there was nowhere to go. Nowhere but back to this corner.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the voice said. “Do you need directions?”
She turned to find an earnest young face, stylishly bearded in the way they did that now, looking back at her. “I suppose I do,” she said, and smiled. Funny, she thought, he doesn’t look boring at all.
He seemed to Jane, through her covert glance across the train aisle, like a seasoned Willoughby, posing in a sharp blue suit and tan shoes, trench slung over his shoulder. She shifted her gaze higher, only to find wolfish eyes already locked upon her, lingering like a question mark. The blush immediately swept her skin and she turned away.
He was clearly no Mr. Darcy. Perhaps a Wickham? A Willoughwick? A Wickhamby? Everything about him was W, and she knew she should curb her curiosity. Though he’d given his seat to someone, she reckoned it was just for show. He looked better standing, and knew it.
He moved immediately in front of her; close enough she had to cross her ankles under the seat so their legs wouldn’t touch. She sighed emphatically, and he eased out of her personal space. Still, she wondered if he could somehow hear her thoughts; wondered how many virtual locks he’d collected in his comings and goings. He glanced down at her, slyly, exposing a dimpled half-smile as he left. Decidedly Wickhamby.
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.