50 SHADES OF GRAY


miss clairolToday when women go from brown to blond to red to black and back again without blinking we think of hair color products as we think of lipsticks. There are bottles and bottles of hair color product with names like Excellence and Preference and Loving Care and Nice and Easy and so on, each in dozens of different shades. There is even Chocolate/Cherry and Champagne Cocktail, colors that ask “Does She or Doesn’t She? but blithely assume “Yes, she does.” Slogans like these were instantly memorable and managed to take on meanings well outside their stated intentions.

My own history with the hair color industry is memorable, having been a victim of my own foolhardiness more than once. Pick a color, any color, and I have given it a short-term lease on my head. I became a Ginger Rogers blond at the age of 16, which then became a strange shade of green at the end of the summer swim season. On another occasion I dyed it black for a Hawaiian party, which had to be removed swiftly before I spoke before a rather dull women’s group. It became a mottled thatch emanating from my scalp, with varying spots of brown, red and a terrifying streak of purple somewhere above my eyebrows.

After my residence with the Pueblo and the bestowal of my honorary name, I colored it a lovely believable dark brown, suitable for my new adopted identity. It remained this color for many years until I nearly believed it was my own. I could wander among the various villages in New Mexico while painting, and not be exposed as “that Anglo blond woman”. Many years later, I let it grow out, at which time I cut it short and asked my good friend what color she would call my hair. She too-promptly replied “Mouse”! So it was back to the bottle. Along with Miss Clairol, I gave myself a home permanent which unfortunately fought with the color and became a bright red Brillo pad on perched on top of my head.

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It was bound to happen—the day arrives when you find your first gray hair, a reminder that Time is marching on. But silver or gray is trending now in clothing, fashion accessories and home décor. We have all heard that men with gray hair are distinguished looking, while it just makes women look 10 years older. However, a few lucky women can pull off a certain amount of elegance. It’s a dilemma for sure. Do you grab the old familiar bottle, or do you try a new color—gray? It’s the only one I had not tried so I decided to give it a go. A number of years ago, somewhat elderly women became blue, do you remember them? They were generally seen with locks the color of a drop-in toilet freshener, and no, it wasn’t a mistake. They did it on purpose—it took any vestiges of blond out.

Streaks of gray usually appear near the ears, giving the impression of “Frankenstein’s Bride”. I once worked for a man who used dark shoe polish to color his ‘side wings.’ I seem to have accomplished the ‘gray mission’ on my own, without the aid of dye or bleach. A grandson once asked me if it was blond or grey. I told him to take his pick.
It still looks blond to me when looking in a mirror, but for some reason, it photographs gray. It must be a trick of the camera.

The thing to remember is that age is just a number, and hair color does not dictate whether you lead a sedate lifestyle, or behave like a character in “50 Shades of Grey.” The choice is yours.

TAOS


Taos stands resplendent in the late afternoon sun, magnificent against the backdrop of the Sandia Mountains.  Taos is the jewel in the crown of the 19 New Mexican Pueblos, unchanged throughout the centuries, despite the influx of visitors who come to marvel at the three- story architecture still inhabited by this proud people.  The tourist town of Taos and the Pueblo village of Taos are separate places, and no where is this more apparent than in the peace and quiet of a sleepy summer afternoon, with a few wispy white clouds drifting around the mountain, and the buildings painted hues of pink or yellow with deep purple shadows,  all accomplished with a solar paintbrush.  It is the most highly photographed of all the villages, and the camera fee has increased throughout the years.  In the 1960’s it was $5, but a number of years ago when Dr. Advice and I were there, it had grown to $15.  There are restricted places where visitors may not enter or photograph, and  of course, common courtesy demands that permission must be obtained before photographing the people, and a fee tendered, whatever the going rate.

During the summer, my Laguna/Isleta friend and I visited many of the villages, sometimes to renew longtime friendships of Georgia’s, and sometimes to attend a seasonal celebratory dance.  All villages do not welcome outside guests, and those which do, expect that strict rules of decorum be observed.  This includes no cameras, no unnecessary talking during the performance, and to my great shame, no quick drawings of the dancers!  I was unaware of doing anything wrong, until I heard Georgia’s whisper not to look up.  Keeping my head down I saw two moccasined feet directly in front of me, and heard Georgia say that I was writing a letter home.   I guiltily looked up into an old and angry hawk-nosed face, deeply tanned and wrinkled, with not an ounce of compassion or forgiveness.  I smiled weakly and quickly looked back at the dancers.  After an abnormal length of time, the old man moved on to try and find any other miscreants.  I realized that the best sketchbook is frequently in your head, and a lot safer too!

As the summer drew to a close, we spent a lot of time in Santa Fe, which was not completely taken over by the tourists yet, and was beginning to develop a thriving gallery business on Canyon Road.  I entertained highly unrealistic dreams of living there, being quite sure that Dr. Advice would thoroughly enjoy running a gallery while I spent my time painting and sculpting off in the hills somewhere.  Alas! he did not agree, but did agree that we would make an annual pilgrimage, which we did, if not annually, at least frequently, for 40 years.

In the week before we departed for home, there were many bread bakings, stewed chile feasts,  and much laughter.  On one such evening, more women seemed to be dressed in traditional clothing, and there was lots of giggling and whispers as if a secret were there trying to escape.  I became aware that I was the object of their mirth when they scooped me up and announced their intention of bestowing a new name on me.  I was overwhelmed and waited breathlessly to know what it was to be.  The governor of the village approached and said a few words in their Tiwa language, and then asked Georgia to come forward.  She said that after much discussion, she had suggested the name of “Pacho Fa” which means “Three Feathers” denoting the three paths my life takes of family, friends and Art.  It was a special moment for me climaxing a long visit which began as strangers wary of one another, and ended with being a part of an ancient civilization which had embraced me and honored me as “one of their own”.

May we all walk in balance. Aho    

Taos In Winter