Shades of Memphis: A Color Tour Through the Bluff City

Posted on February 2, 2015


By: Rosalia Preiss

shadesIf you’re anything like me, winter isn’t your favorite time in Memphis. When I moved here in August of 2013, I wasn’t expecting the chill, the rain, or the seemingly overwhelming dullness of the darker months here. I always get a little down when it’s cold out, and the lack of color was really getting to me. Everything outside looked as if it were to all blur together, molding into a mundane grayscale. So to me, writing a column called “Shades of Memphis” seemed a bit pointless. I felt admittedly apathetic. Until, however, I walked to my dorm on a Friday morning in mid-January.

In a post-lecture stupor, I headed back to my room to catch a few hours of sleep before work. I felt the weight of my almost all-nighter pulling on my eyelids, and all I wanted was to get out of the cold and back into bed. I came out from under a covered walkway and glanced up for what was only supposed to be but a second. It was just then, however, that my eyes immediately stuck to what I saw. The stark contrast of the thin, gnarled tree branches against the mild sky almost startled me. I had seen that same tree and that same sky so many days in a row, but I felt as though I had never really looked at either long enough to appreciate them.

Something felt incredibly soothing about the smoothness of the sky with those thin, pen-like scratches of the leafless branches superimposed against it. It took me time to notice the beauty of the monochromatic winter of the city I live in. Yes, it was all a great mélange of beige and gray, but there was an amazing tranquility in those pale shades. Maybe gray isn’t technically a color, but the tone of the sky that morning felt worthy of being an important shade of Memphis in winter.

That pale gray reminded me of a something comfortably old, well worn, and well loved, far less harsh than the stark newness of white. I felt I had come to an understanding with the sky that morning. I had discovered something quietly beautiful at a time when all of Memphis felt a little dull. Though the color itself is cool, something about that sky made me feel warm on that brisk morning.

Obviously winter still may not be seen as the most alluring of seasons here in the Bluff City. The wind still bites mercilessly at any tidbit of exposed skin, and the sun only peeks through to shine on the tall twisted trees and tawny grass at the most unpredictable of moments. But for these last few weeks before spring, when everything comes back to life in frantic bursts of saturated color, I’ll try to absorb the serenity and peacefulness of that wintery, pale gray, Memphis sky.

Posted in: Lifestyle