“Perdita” in Green and Blue

Fred Varley's: "Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay" (1921)

Fred Varley’s: “Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay” (1921)

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While writing “Perdita,” I found myself wondering about the color of Georgian Bay’s cold, wild waters. Was the Bay more blue than green?

Suddenly I was very reluctant to commit myself to either color.

Then I remembered reading a collection of Henry David Thoreau’s work and how he often seemed unwilling to commit himself to simply one color. Instead, Thoreau frequently described Nature’s colors as an unfolding palette, constantly shifting and changing.

I went back to his Walden (1854) and discovered that Thoreau had decided that water has two colors: “one when viewed at a distance, and another…close at hand.”

His description made me recall my childhood and my family driving out to our cottage on Georgian Bay. I, as a child, always strained my neck for the season’s first sight of the water: the first glimpse was usually a band of navy blue sparkling off in the distance. But then, close to the Bay’s edge, there was a green in the water—a cool, grumpy green, especially in the first swim of summer.

The Bay changed its greens and blues throughout the summer. In August—in those lingering, last days of my holidays—the Bay gave off a frowsy, voluptuous green. By the end of September, it had become a seriously and winterly blue again.…

If I were a painter, I suppose I would have to settle down to my palette, mix my colors and then try to take a stand. But the canvas—if it were any good—would capture the lucky accident of the mix. It would have to convey something of Nature making a color in front of me.

Somehow the same applies to writing. After reading Thoreau, I wanted my novel Perdita and its story of a lighthouse keeper’s family on Georgian Bay to be both “green and blue.”

I’ve often been asked: “Is your novel more historical fiction than magical realism?” “Is it more about the past or the present?” My response is that the story, like the color of Georgian Bay, is both. The novel undulates between genres and delights in the “mix.”

I am so grateful to Thoreau for inspiring the green and blue of Perdita. He writes of water as “lying between the earth and the heavens.” Georgian Bay, like his Walden Pond, “partakes of both.”

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