I’m supposed to come over for a cup of tea
and some low carb shepherd’s pie (apparently there is such a thing)
but I’m worried about later
about how I’ll feel

the afternoons have been tricky lately

“Can I come now?” I ask her over the phone, already in the car and heading in her direction.

“Yep, I’m home and I’m painting!” Her voice is cheerful, energetic; alive.

Minutes later I arrive with coffee in hand, three hours earlier than we had originally planned
but she doesn’t need a lengthy explanation
and I don’t really want to give her one

She’s just glad I came
as soon as I walk through the front door
so am I

“So, what do you think?” she asks, as she watches me survey the streaked dining room walls.

“I love it,” I tell her.
And I do.
It has potential.

I ask her for a paint brush
knowing she won’t try to stop me
and I grin at the ease of our relationship

after so many years
it’s not strange that I would end up here before breakfast to help her paint her house

She asks me if I want the roller brush
I want to focus on the details.
I feel like I need to focus on the details.
It’s something I’m not very good at
but today I harness all of my stress
my anxiety
my self-defeat

and I detail the shit out of her kitchen

I can’t remember the last time
I stopped fretting long enough
to just focus on the details

but right here
right now
it’s just me and this paint brush
and what seems like a million stubborn nooks and crannies
and I don’t have to think

in fact
i stop thinking altogether
I just
until it’s

It’s a pretty color
soft on the eyes
though I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance in the store

But here
in her warm house
this warm color

“Stop calling it Orange,” I tell her when she marvels at how good “Orange” looks in her entryway. “It’s fancier than Orange. It’s like a Burnt Sienna. It deserves a good name.”

“It’s actually called Butterscotch,” she says.

“Gross. That makes me think of a Butterfinger and your walls look nothing like a Butterfinger. We need to think of something better.”

She’s quiet for a minute.

“How about Terra Cotta?”

I say it silently to myself

Terra Cotta

love the rolling of the rrrrrrrrrr’s
love the staccato of the ttttttttt’s
love the way putting this new color on top of the old one makes me feel

like there’s potential
for progress

“I like it. Terra Cotta. Terra Cotta it is.”

I dip my paint brush into the can
wipe the excess along the rim
and watch
as my hand guides the brush along the narrow space between her sink
my stroke steady and confident
my only concern that I do a good job

I listen as she catches me up on her part of the world
while i gratefully
tune out of mine
and together we transform this space
in between fits of giggles and comfortable silence

and I am filled with peace
and potential
and progress

filled to the brim
with my usefulness
and the warmth of this color

picture myself
diving into
a pool filled with the stuff

promise myself more of it in my life

because suddenly i feel alive

suddenly realize

that a color


Terra Cotta
is meant
the living

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5 Replies to “Terra Cotta is for the Living”

  1. I hope this doesn’t make you think I’ve missed the point of your essay, but do you do any handwork? Knitting, sewing, embroidery? They are so satisfying and it’s nice to have a little, approachable, beautiful project to focus on from time to time. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing lately, and it’s great! Just a thought.

    Love ya,

  2. No, you are spot on Loren. It was like occupational therapy for me! I found such peace in it. The closest I ever get to that feeling is when I fold laundry; it’s the same concept. I get to tune out of reality and my own head for a while. Knitting sounds divine actually. If you have any tips on how to get started, would love them from you!! Thanks!

  3. You tube! If you actually want an in-person teacher, there’s actually a very nice yarn store, YarnLady (http://www.yarnlady.com) in Laguna Hills. The yarn will be a little pricey (but beautiful!), but you can find a really nice community of people at a yarn store. I wish I was still around town to teach you myself!


  4. I have written and deleted several responses–they all seem trite…and trite has no place here, even if it is unwitting and misconstrued.

    So there’s this: I feel grateful that you have a friend who would hang up the phone, immediately lay paint tarps on the floor, grab paintbrushes, open a can of “Terra Cotta” paint, slop a bit around for effect, and begin to re-decorate simply to create a supportive environment in which to focus on someone else’s details for a change. Now that’s friendship……

  5. There is actually a knitting class going on in January. Look in the Orange Progress for the details.

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