It took me 25 years to make peace with purple. It is my least favorite color. It’s the color of bruises, lack of sleep and bad ideas. It doesn’t smell like grape lip smackers. To me the color purple smells like gasoline. I just don’t like it and I never have.
Winter of ‘06. In order to survive in sub-zero mountain temperatures, you need to have a snow sport you enjoy. Mine was snow-shoeing. At that time, we only had our oldest kid, Bella. She became my “adventuring partner” (Fact: You get to make up verbs if you endure a Park City Winter).
My husband worked full-time and went to school full-time. To say we rarely saw him is an understatement. One night, I reached over to touch him around 2AM and he wasn’t there. He should have been home from school around 11PM and he had to go to work at 6AM. I searched the house and found him curled up next to Bella on her bed. “I haven’t seen her for days. She grew without me,” he said. We were a crew on the same boat but facing different directions. It was a difficult time.
But, that was our reality and season of life back then. Bella and I made the best of it. We got through our winters there by hiking throughout all the land. We went 4-5 times a week.
One afternoon, I bundled her up, put her on my back and started up the trail. At some point, her tiny gloves fell off. Eventually she started to whimper which was unusual for my little buddy. I stopped, took the backpack off, realized what had happened and started a mild panic. Her hands were pale and pure ice. I sat on a huge snow covered boulder, holding my baby and trying to figure out how to get her hands warm enough to start the hike down. While rocking her and humming I looked out over the mountains. The peaks looked worn out and exhausted. Wintertime did that to people and mountains. Each branch around me was barren and devastated. I knew spring would come. I knew the hike would end. I knew her hands would be okay. I knew these things but in this situation, I didn’t feel they were true. Staring at those trees gave me zero hope. Like none at all. My heart felt heavy and full of echoes. I still had to climb down that mountain though with a baby on my back.
Those empty trees created a new feeling in me that was unsettling. Trees had always symbolized life and hope for me. As I sat here and observed these trees, they were weighed down with snow. Some were even breaking under the pressure. Maybe these trees stopped believing in a hopeful spring too.
That was the moment I realized that the mountains were a reflection of my state of mind. The world around me personified what I felt inside.
Ever felt cheated...and the world looks only and entirely unfair?
Ever felt grateful...and the world looks like a gift?
Ever felt devastated...and the world was a void?
Ever felt lonely...and the world was monochrome?
I hated this moment. I hated that my baby was freezing. That the trees were empty. That Kent wasn’t here. That the sun was setting at 5:00. I hated all of it. This moment was purple to me, like Bella’s sweet cold hands.
Then something happened…
Through my tears, the world went hazy for a moment and the mountainside wasn’t just isolated trees enduring their own empty boughs. When looked at softly through my tears, the entire hillside was a perfect color that only Mother Nature could engineer.
It was gray-lavender.
The branches, when viewed separately, were hideous. However, when my eyes softened and I saw millions of empty branches on that hillside, it combined into a color I had never seen before.
It was new.
It was genuinely beautiful.
And it was a version of a color I used to openly despise. Purple.
I grew up in the mountains and I had never noticed this before.
Now when I snowshoe, I stop in that same place and look for that same color. The one that didn’t exist in my world before. The one that took tears to see. The one that holds the mountains together until the spring.
It’s always there, the hidden miracle of purple, waiting for me to notice it.