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3.1. 灰 = Gray

The Chinese character, 灰, has multiple meanings: mortar, ash, gray, and loss of hope.

Californian skies have been gray for most of summer, thick with particles, true to the image of dust to dust, ashes to ashes, and the general feeling of it being the end of the world. The elderly, the young, the asthmatic, and respiratory patients were encouraged to stay indoors. In fact, everyone should have been wearing masks, like a scene in some post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick.

There are endless shades of gray, certainly more than fifty, especially in real life and not fiction. No judgment either way--that's the point. The continuum is horizontal, rather than vertical (from heaven to hell).

From now on, nursing school will be more and more gray, our new instructor says. She's referring to gray area, non-black-and-white-ness, no absolute good or bad, but things sitting somewhere on the spectrum. Possibly, she's also talking about the gray hairs sprouting from our scalps with each fluid and electrolyte case study.

At least the sparkly grays dye into fun colors pretty well.

The gray matter in the central nervous system contains more cell bodies and is the smarter part, the brains of the brain, as it were. Gray matter decreases as a result of aging, playing action video games, alcoholism, and pregnancy (#@$^&*...)
Gray is also an anatomy atlas, popular medical-themed television series, almost everything in monochrome art, Russian blue cats, the color of white walls at 2am, and what flesh looks like as life slips away.

Mortar; ash; loss of hope. The soil and dust that grows living things came from rock at one point, and once life has run its course, it returns to the earth with all its former hopes and dreams. Not exactly uplifting, but reassuring in its natural cycle.

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