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International Orange

After half a day’s voyage they came to a harbor that brought to mind someplace else. Funny how that happens, how even then, when so much of the world was genuinely new, and offered a true exploration of new ideas, things never seen before, the idea was to make it all look and sound like places they had been before.

How much have we lost to ideas of the same and the familiar? Allegiance to the familiar? The world built and developed on some psychotic stream, a river of sentiment that said, make this all look the same.

After half a day’s voyage they came to a harbor that brought to mind the Bosporus. The Golden Gate on the other side of the world. Let’s call it that. Not thinking about how that choice would inform the culture hundreds of years later. 

Let’s paint the bridge a shade of red or brown or orange. Let’s make sure everyone can see it in the fog.

What color?

Sherwin Williams International Orange. (Make it yourself: 

The PMS code is 173 or the 

CMYK colors are: 

C= Cyan :  0%, 

M =Magenta : 69%, 

Y =Yellow : 100%, 

K = Black : 6%)

How the color determines the color of many other things built around it: roofs, dining rooms, how paint shop clerks can mix it for bathrooms. How we see coats and hats and ties and say, wow that’s the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. But then we find out it is not the same color. It is a hard color for people to remember accurately. People think of it as red, when it is more of iron oxide — faded by the salty air and sunshine, the color can only be the color when it is there, on that metal span, shining in the fading light. 

It was only when I moved to Iowa, far from the bridge, that I discovered how tonic and pleasing it was. When I first moved to San Francisco I was 28 and found the bridge to feel entirely synthetic. It seemed to be kitsch. The other bridge, the Bay Bridge, felt more authentic to me. A real, silver bridge carrying an enormous spread of lanes jammed with cars hurtling in either direction. Of course, I changed my mind. 

Now, given the fact it is 1.2 miles from my front door, I can walk and see it each day. It never grows uninteresting, never loses its allure. When studying photos of the Golden Gate before the bridge, they appear entirely false: Someone has photoshopped our span out. A visual trick, a trompe l’oeil. 

After half a day’s voyage they came upon. 

After half a day’s voyage they came upon a shore that was home to Indians who called themselves Ohlone. As with most Indians who lived along shorelines, these people were doomed. Could they imagine their doom? 

Or is that a modern concoction, the idea we know when we’re about to get it? Do we ever know we are about to get it? In the way actors portraying scurrying people in today’s sci-fi movies turn and look back over shoulders, baring teeth and eyes alive with panic. Surely they will not be able to find cover from the monstrous space ship rising from the distant horizon? Rising and growing. And then. 

About Leslie Carol Roberts

Leslie Carol Roberts is the author of Here Is Where I Walk: Episodes from a Life in the Forest (Nevada, 2019) and The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica, (Nebraska, 2008; Bison Books, 2012.) Recent work includes the The Gigaton Ice Theatre (Performing Ice anthology, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020); the Eco-Thoughts column in The Believer magazine (2019-ongoing), and the Late, Great Golden State, published by The Bellingham Review. In 2018, she founded the ECOPOESIS project with two architects, Adam Marcus and Christopher Falliers, which creates messaging and forms around climate change. They hosted ECOPO 1 in SF in 2019, with the philosopher Timothy Morton as their invited guest and discussant; in the summer of 2019, Leslie was on the road in France and the Maldives conducting research and interviews around ecologies as part of the Architectural Ecologies Lab, of which she is a member. In 2020-21 Leslie is a Resident Artist with the Al Balad Fellowship in the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, enacting ECOPOESIS around desert landscapes. She gives talks and workshops in the US and abroad around writing and form-making around ecologies --with ecologies being defined broadly to include the instantiated systems of neo-liberal capitalism that allow for the destructive, cruel, and disastrous environmental systems of these times -- from extraction technologies to instantiated racism, misogyny, and income disparities. Over her international career in journalism and creative writing, Leslie has written hundreds of news stories, features, and essays for newspapers, magazines, and journals, in the U.S. and abroad, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Bangkok Post, The St. Petersburg Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Iowa Review online, Ascent, and The Bellevue Literary Review. Roberts, a Fulbright Fellow, is Professor and Chair of MFA Writing at California College of the Arts. An avid outdoors-human and traveler, she is at work on two books -- one continues her work in the Antarctic humanities and the other is a gothic feminist horror novel. You can reach Leslie at leslier7@gmail.com


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