July 29, 2009 4:50:00 PM
I never truly knew the color green until I moved to Mississippi.
I had known green from more northern summers, but never the profound green of Mississippi; a forest green so overwhelming I might imagine no other color could exist. The one other color that did finally register, however, served only to draw me to this green I had never experienced.
In passing a manicured holly tree (Ilex opaca), I noticed rich, scarlet berry clumps imbedded in the deep waxy green of the spiked leaves. The contrast attracted me as the surrounding leaf green so brightly and vividly set off the rich berry red. Can berries be that red, I thought? Yes, they can be when nestled in the overpowering green of this tree. Then I marveled at the green, not the red, and saw total green for the first time.
As sunlight descends through the multi-layer Mississippi forest canopy, it is soaked up by the thick leaves of the tall hardwoods, then by the evergreen pines and finally by green shrubs and smaller vegetation. As an ocean diver descends to the depths, the sea turns a darker green with each passing fathom until there is only darkness. Descending through the Mississippi forest canopy, the darker green finally turns not into utter darkness, but into a green so deep and pervasive other colors no longer seem to exist.
Certainly I have experienced deep (yet, somehow, relatively pallid) summer green in other states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and North Carolina, but there is a depth and richness in Mississippi green missing in more northern climes. Perhaps it is constant watering by moisture laden clouds from the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps the sub-tropical temperatures of much of the year that makes Mississippi a want-to-be jungle in northern hardwood liveries.
Whatever the combination of forces that has produced this deep green sensory overload, they are busy making Mississippi the definition of impossible summer green.
Jay Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force.