Ashen Thoughts, Hoary Words

Is it gray or grey? How do you spell gray? Grey?

I love gray. Hate grey. Or visa-versa.

No, really, it'll be clear soon. The gray, er grey, fog will lift...

While “hate” may be too strong of a word, I’ve been into gray-bashing for a number of days. Here it is: I weary of fog . . . low clouds . . . Valley gunk. Morning after morning: grey. Afternoon after afternoon: gray. Maybe the sun burns through in the late afternoon, or maybe there’s a brief sliver of light in the west as the earth spins out the end of another winter day, but for the most part . . . yup, gray or grey, it’s all the same.

The weather page of today’s newspaper is another demonstration of language frustration:

  • Sunny, patchy fog…
  • Partly cloudy…
  • Low clouds and fog…
  • Clouds will give way to some…blah, blah, blah.

Each day could just read: gray. Grey!

And the thing is, I’m a gray kind of guy. Being grey is one of the joys of my life.

There’s little finer than the color of granite—which is quite gray—as the sun works its magic at sunrise or sunset on alpine ridges. Granite explodes with pink and orange; a veritable light show of wordless wonder against a grey backdrop! And what of Ansel Adams, the grand master of the world of gray!

Many of my most precious values are tinted in tones of gray. Take a controversial issue like abortion. I could talk a blue streak about how terrible abortion is, how it should never have to happen, and how it is almost always a reflection of a more complex tragedy. And yet that does not lead me to be “against” abortion. With strident grey-ness, I am a loud and proud advocate of “choice” for a woman’s right to have an abortion. While every abortion is tinged with tragedy, no abortion can be so neatly defined and categorized that we humans can uniformly say that one is right and another is wrong.

And some of you, reading this, will vehemently disagree with me. And we would have a grey-based argument. Indeed, much of the tension in this country right now, whether with people or faith or in the political arena, is often with gray-based vs. black & white-based points of view.

I like gray and the many colors it has for companions: silver, smoky, or stone. Or how about grizzly, mousy or dove-colored? From ashes to zinc gray, grey is great! Pearls can be gray. There is a color of grey in crystal.

But in these gray days, it’s hard for me to truly celebrate grey. How much I like to live with the challenge of my gray-based ways of thinking and believing. How uncomfortable I am with people who are so “black & white.”

Still, as the days of grey grow in number, one on another, I long for the end of gray. As the local weather wags continue forecasting their dull-witted verbiage of cloudy-foggy-blah-blah-blah, I desire grey’s demise.

In my Christian tradition—as with other great religions—the metaphor of light is essential and abundant. From Christmas Eve candles to Easter’s sunrise through Pentecost’s flames, light defines the best of our faith. Grey is cast aside.

So, clinging to my faith, I await the earth’s rotation, the flow of the seasons, and trust in the light to come. The grey will end. The days will lengthen. Alleluia. Be gone dull clouds and dreary fog!

But, is it grey or gray? In my Webster’s all the fancy gray definitions are found under “gray” and at the word “grey,” Webster’s merely says “grey” is a variation of “gray.”

Harrumph. Grey or gray, it’s a problem-child word. Red isn’t “red” or “redde.” Blue isn’t “blue” or “bleu.” Green isn’t “green” or “grean.”

Poor grey. But it’s no surprise to me that gray can’t make up its linguistic mind.

Regardless, have a grey, er, great day!

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  1. Reading this, one can understand how Mozart made such a big splash with just a few notes (well, more than a few, I guess, but who’s counting). I am sorely tempted to use this as an example for my first class on the Lectionary tomorrow. It is truly remarkable how one can react to the same content, depending on the context in which it appears. This is an illustration of how one can, with a reasonable amount of backlogged material in your Sherlock Holmsean memory, create a sermon like statement on virtually any single word, regardless of how uninteristing it may seem at the outset. For example, a rather well-known writer on contextual theologies,, Miguel de al Torre, rehearsed a quote from his hero, the Cuban freedom hero, Julian Marti, which was critical of the U.S….in the 19th century. I can get some glimmer of why some countries are annoyed at our complaining about THEIR civil liberties and what have you. It’s a lot like the story of the beam in your eye… And yes, I like grey and fog as well. It’s just not the best time to read a Stephen King story.

  2. Well! I reread this comment, and I’m not sure it has any center. It is just a jumble of impression which are rattling around the front of my consciousness looking for an excuse to get out. Sorry. I will do better next time.

  3. I agree with Bruce – you’re amazing Larry! Thanks for that. Being English I spell it ‘grey’ – are we really divided by our common language? (Chesterton).
    But yes it is difficult in days like these to say almost through gritted teeth: ‘This is the day the Lord has made, I *will* rejoice and be glad in it…’
    (but at least it’s not snowing. And the first snowdrops are out).

    1. Ahhh…is “grey” English English while “gray” is American English? Words, and their histories, are a favourite fascination of mine. Or is that favorite?

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