When I walked in it was like wildflowers. Imagine sunflowers in sienna. It was a sea of waving, swaying gray with subtle streaks and strands of colors. Little bits of blues and greens and reds and yellows with almost no smell. There was nearly no scent.
I’d suck air into my nose and I’d hold it and I’d wait and nothing would happen. No fir or apple or green grass. There wasn’t even dirt. There was no scent. None.
I’d walk through the flowers, look at, inspect and lean in, bend my back and lower my nose into what I hoped would be the fragrant center of symmetry and there would only be the wind winding its way about and through my nostrils filling my lungs with an empty, evaporated scent.
I would long to see color. I would survey my surroundings. I would swivel my head. I’d turn from left to right, from right to left, tilt my head back and I’d look up. The only color I’d see was the blue sky above me and the brown ground below.
One sunflower looked like every other. It wasn’t until I closed my eyes and listened to them sway in the breeze that I could see their differences. Only with my eyes closed could I see the subtleties that varied one to another. Thin slivers of yellow or red or tiny bursts of blue or gold or green would shimmer and sparkle and catch my eye.
Imagine one red balloon in a crowd of blacks and grays, only this red balloon I couldn’t see until I stopped trying to see it with the eyes that I had. It was when I gave up, surrendered to the frustration of this seemingly lifeless fog and flood of monochrome colors that I fell back, the rear of my heels still on the floor, arms at my sides and the back of my head paralyzed preparing to break my fall, that this sea of sepia sunflowers reached out, reached up and caught me, held me, lauded me and applauded me and sweetly buoyed me and gently bounced me up and down in miniature, outward, radiating waves of motion.
This pleasant fall, this subtle awakening and this awareness to a rainbow I’d never seen was my welcome, was my very first day of teaching, walking among and surrounded by, the many foreign faces of my high school English class in China.