58. Black and White

I’ve had black and white on the brain lately.

Everywhere I look, I see black and white together. Dark and light. Absorbing and reflecting. Hot and cold. Opposites. Contrasts.

black and white in natureToday, stopped at a stop light in the burbs of Pittsburgh, I saw a bald eagle. My first thoughts were, I must be wrong. What other kind of bird looks like that? Some sort of hawk? I may have misidentified it; but there it was — huge, flying out of the treetop, thirty feet above me. I got a good look: white head, black body, curved yellow beak, very large. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology tells me that it could be a turkey vulture, but I definitely saw a white feathered head. I’m sticking to my story.

black and white in the world
I was marveling at the sight when twenty yards down the road came two black and white police cars racing to a somewhere scene, lights flaring, sirens blaring. Yes, that was more like the city — powerful, forceful, a place full of opposites — street lights illuminating the dark, sirens piercing the silence of the night, churches and rescue shelters — havens in the midst of desperate neighborhoods.

black and white in design
Black and white in design is a study of contrasts. The design blog Hongkiat.com calls black and white a “stark dichotomy,” which makes the design impossible to ignore. It is clean and simple, yet it can be complex as well. Black and white together have “…endless opportunities that other color schemes just don’t manage to generate. It all just balances itself out.”  I especially like the word balance.

I love old black and white films, and black and white photography fills me with a longing that color just doesn’t satisfy. (See post 30. A Stillness in Time).  Wikipedia says, “Since the advent of color, black-and-white mass media often connotes something nostalgic, historic or anachronistic.” Yes, that’s me — nostalgic, anachronistic, and yearning.

Black and white together — it is bold. Courageous. Balanced. Stunning. It takes a stand. Bald eagles, police cars, photography, design… and our new kitchen floor.
Armstrong VCT tile

It is bold. I generally believe in hardwood floors or muted rugs. This stands out. It shouts out. I love it!

I have never been bold or courageous, though as I get older I discover I am gaining on them. Arguments still make me squeamish; heated discussions still often silence me; and I usually just want everyone to get along together. My walls are white, and my wardrobe consists of neutrals, though I occasionally wear an emerald scarf, a bright red sweater, a purple t-shirt. I have always admired boldness in others, while secretly thinking that bad things always happen to those who stand out or stand up.

In a world that needs boldness, I want to stand.

In a world that needs the saving grace and redemption of Jesus, I want to shout of His power to save.


Happy Easter! May we be bold in speaking of His love.

No, the issues that are fracturing us are not black and white. But what we must all take to heart is His love; His redemption; His power. Written over both the black and the white is His love — written in His blood — written forever, no matter who we are, what we do, or how we dis-grace Him. His love covers us all, and it’s free.


30. A Stillness in Time

I’ve been experimenting with black and white photography these past two weeks. Perhaps it is a bit ironic that as autumn’s colors are at its most glorious, I’m choosing black and white. It could be that my camera can’t capture the beauty of fall; but I think it is more of a mood. I hear friends say how much they love fall and its coolness, but I miss the sun and the warm. The last gasp beauty of the bright, God-painted trees can’t make up for the gray, cold rain.

Is it just the absence of color that creates the different moods of black/white/gray photos? Is it the lack of color that makes the observer focus on form, line, and shape? What gives the dreamlike, still, unearthly qualities to black and white photography?

As I was reading about the feelings that black & white photos evoke, one phrase keeps rumbling in my mind — that it creates a sense of stillness in time. Being here at the cottage does that for me as well, so the two have merged in this post. It is a stillness, a peace, a quietude that is not in my “other” life. It is almost as if time is standing still when we are here.

There is something else that a black and white photo implies — simplicity. I’m not sure why… Is it because it reminds us of a simpler time? Or is it that the colors don’t get in the way of what we see? Details and shadows all become clear, yet at the same time, shrouded in mystery…a metaphor for life, for God.


Life is simplified here at the cottage: work and jobs are left behind; meetings and responsibilities are rare; we don’t have much technology, just our cell phones and a television to watch Steeler games. We are focused on here, today, now, and what we have to accomplish — our purpose, for now. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.–Ecclesiastes 3:1.


In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes,

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

Stillness of time,
Season of quiet,
Circle of life,
Listening to that other voice —
Black and white photos fit Apple Hill Cottage well.

(Don’t worry, I’ll be back to colors next week.)