Today, another word picture: a short fictional word-image fantasia tangential to the word of the day.

lutescent. adjective. Tending towards yellow. From the suffix escent (as in adolescent) plus Latin luteus (with a long first u), ‘yellow’, not to be confused with Latin luteus (with a short first u), ‘muddy, made of clay, worthless’.


Picture the end of summer, when the aching greens of spring have relaxed, diluted their efforts, headed towards retirement. The cicada-timers have almost run out. Leaves are thinking of leaving. Barbecue smoke smells nostalgic. Things have been won, loved, and lost. She’s looking for one of them.

She is this young woman. And this one. Two pictures. Two waving sets of yellow strands.

In one, you see a field of prairie grass and shrub, shifting in shade from Chartreuse to Chartreuse, and behind it protestant evergreens and a catholic blue river. A young woman with her brown hair knotted back is walking through it with purpose. Something was lost in the mud of the bank and she wants it back.

In the other, you see the flowing flaxen hair of a different young woman, seen from behind, her head eclipsing the late-day sun, golden strands glowing as they ride the short breeze. She is in a crowd of blurred strangers, and her eyes, if you could see them, scan like binoculars. She has what she wants, but she does not have who she wants.

How can gold become mud? How does the long, hot summer become as short as a young lover’s temper? When a young man gives a young woman fourteen carrot-coloured karats in July to wear on her significant digit as a sign of absolute value, how close to zero are the days numbered in August when she finds him on the clay strand of the river involved with someone else? As the gold waves behind in the field, and ahead on the head of this other young woman, it is time for accounting: she zeroes the balance by throwing her gold circle down and walking away, right away, far away.

The ring is picked up, of course. It is found. It is worn. It matches the lutescent hair of its wearer.

But a young woman with a balanced perspective has a head for balances. She takes her numbers and goes to town. What from the country does she carry with her? The autumnal wheatgrass and brush, on her head. When the leaves are taken, it is time to dye. She has a new life now. And she seeks, in the madding crowd, her match to give her the elusive flame.

There are two young women in this story, yes. One of them found a man in the mud and kept him. And one of them found a golden ring and kept it. But I’m not sure which. I can’t see the hands from here.

All I know for sure is that the young woman in the second picture is different. She is different from who she was in the first picture. She has the same name, the same face. But the summer has gone and she has turned to gold.

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