Monday, December 1, 2014

Inspired By My Olla: Colors of Mazatlan

Inspired By My Olla: Colors of Mazatlan
            Every house or apartment I have ever moved into had white rooms. Oh, I just remembered, that’s not totally true. One was shades of putrid pink. Sooner or later, I transformed every wall in every house with colors of my choice.  

            Several months ago Gogi, my landlady, was sitting in my living room visiting. Gogi is Mazatleca but she spends most of the year in Sun City, California, where her daughter lives. I asked if I might paint. “Sondra, you may do anything you want,” I heard her say. I did. I know those are the exact words she used. Immediately I saw the colors dance around the room.

                        My friends in Harlem have teased me for years about how whenever I had visitors, I managed to put them to work on major house and garden projects. “How can you do that?”  “Did your friends know you had fifteen yards of bark chips in your driveway before they arrived?” “Did they have a clue that you had ripped out the carpet and had boxes of wood flooring stacked in the living room?” “Why do they keep coming back?”

            My olla, my traditional clay bean pot, has a marvelous array of warm, light-reflective terra cotta hues. Easy as it was to make my color choices, getting to the job was more difficult. Physically, I couldn’t do it. I needed help.

            Kathy, from Pender Island in British Columbia, a friend through sixteen years of mutual projects, and I were sitting in my living room, phase two of Project Olla. I held my olla in my lap. “Let’s use this light color for the main walls and this darker shade for trim and at least one wall. We’ll paint all the walls the same two colors. This place is too small to use more colors. Oh, except for the door. I see blue on the front door.”

            “I can see blue,” Kathy agreed.  “Let’s go buy paint.”

            Mazatlan is a city of over eight-hundred thousand people and an equal number of vibrant colors. I have an unlimited choice of paint (pintura) stores, including Sherwin Williams. I chose Comex, a Mexican paint company with a tienda on every other corner. I bought brushes, rollers, a lighter shade and a brighter shade.

            Despite the fact it was afternoon and 96 degrees in the shade, my friend and I began slinging paint. We started in the kitchen. With the lighter color. Only the lighter seemed much brighter on the wall than it did in the paint bucket. Once begun, finish the job, right? That is the way I was taught. Goodness, the room seemed, well, intense. I returned the next day and hung pictures and set furniture in place. Ah, the room quit dancing the samba and settled down into a welcoming and cheerful dining area.  

            The following day we returned to Comex to buy a gallon of white. I wanted to mix white with the paint left from the first gallon, the “lighter shade”, to tone it down a smidgeon for the remainder of the walls.

Now, what happened could have happened in any paint store in any country. Even Sherwin Williams in Havre, Montana. The man misunderstood what I wanted and shot colors into a gallon of white to duplicate the same bright and cheerful terra cotta. “No,” I sort of screeched. It took four persons to find a solution. I walked out with a gallon of the color I wanted. Pretty much. Plus a liter of dark blue for the door.

Kathy tackled the blue door and I began painting the “lighter-light” terra cotta, close to salmon. The darker paint is tangy, like tangerine. I painted a blotch of each, side by side, and hey, this works! We finished the door and painted a first coat on the hallway and bedroom. All the furniture is crammed into the middle of the rooms so we can drag ladders around the perimeters. We sleep at the resort where Kathy is staying. My bed is piled high with pillows, baskets and books.

The third “paint day” I unlocked my door, heart in my throat. I want to like the results. My rooms welcomed me with a warm glow.  Today we finish. The rooms are brighter than I had intended. But . . .

I love the jubilant effect. My neighbors like it. I hope Gogi likes it. She said I could paint it. “Do anything you want,” she said. She did. 

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
October 30, 2014

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