As we drove from Calgary through the mountains and then out to Whistler, we loved looking at the landscapes and of course at the changing leaves. It struck me over and over again, that no matter how beautiful any mountainside was, we always remarked with excitement when we saw a red tree, or more frequently, as we saw red undergrowth. This colour seemed to catch our eye and stand out more than any other colour.
I began to think of all the Red Chairs that we have found this year in our National Parks. I need to do some counting but I know that we have been lucky enough to find Red Chairs in almost every National Park we have visited. This trip, on our way toward to the coast, I realized that we had not found chairs in Yoho National Park, so we made an unexpected, but very memorable stop and travelled up to Takakkaw Falls where to our delight, we found two red chairs. Once again, as we panned the scenery, the red in the chairs simply drew our eyes to them, even though behind them was a magnificent waterfall.
I don’t know what the thinking was on the part of Parks Canada when they chose red for the colour of the chairs. I’m guessing that it was because red and white are the colours on our Canadian flag. However, given that no chairs are white, it also might have been that the red simply stands out from all other colours. Red is a hard colour to ignore. It begs us to notice it.
This got me thinking about what we notice about other people when we first meet them, and also what we notice when we have known them for a long time. I thought of people that I know and I wondered, ‘What is their red?’ What quality stands out about them? What is it about them that just begs to be noticed? What speaks the loudest about them?
I decided to think of a few people I know and to see if I could come up with the answer to this question: What is their red?
My friend Coralie was easy. When anyone meets Coralie, they are immediately drawn to her kindness, her generosity and the feeling of safety she creates for those in her presence. I have been friends with her for about 35 years and this was as true when I first met her as it is today. To me, this is her red. Other people who know her say the same thing. They may use slightly different language but the idea is consistent. Coralie’s red is something about the safe, loving space she creates.
Next, because he was trapped in a car with me and my thoughts, Jim and I started to talk about this idea of ‘red’ and Jim asked what I thought his red was. I could easily answer this. To me, Jim’s red is his ability to make anyone feel welcome and significant. He is interested in everyone and he loves nothing more than to help others succeed. He does not really care what their goal is; for the most part, he simply wants to do anything he can to give others backing and a firm foundation on which to grow their dreams. So, I suppose his red is his generous, positive, loving support.
Jim asked what I thought my red was. At the time, I answered as honestly as I could. I think that sometimes it is hard to see ourselves how others see us. I said that I felt like what stood out about me changed from time to time. Sometimes I feel like my red is my over-cautious nature (I might have even said that my red might look like a wet blanket). Other times my red is my open heart.
Jim replied that he did not think that others see me as overly cautious. This reminded me of two important things. One is that how we see ourselves (with a very strong, often critical magnifying glass) is not always how others see us. Two is that sometimes we do not acknowledge that we have acquired a trait that might have been less developed in our earlier life. In this case, I realized that I may not have given myself credit for learning to live more bravely – my default for my self-view was still to see myself as cautious.
The main learning here is that it is important to take time to think about not only how others see us, but also to think about, and then to manifest how we want to be seen by others; to be clear about what red we are presenting to the world.
As you go about your life this week, you will create an impression of yourself for others to take away. My wish is that you will wear just the perfect shade of red; one that showcases your individuality, that gives others a true reflection of your best-self, and that when caught in just the right light is nothing short of captivating.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is my red?’