November 12, 2009


Blogger extraordinaire, and lifestyle consultant, Gillian, posted a series on color all week, starting here. I
was going to comment, but my comment grew into a full-spectrum post. It's happened before. Thanks for
the inspiration, mon Bleux.

My awareness of colors and the emotional response they evoked began in my early childhood, staring,
transfixed, at the lights on the Christmas tree. Here, at their purest and most intense, I found for the first
time their essential vibes. Reiterated in fireworks, their midsummer exploded and sky-borne cousins. I
could not have articulated, that young, what I found, but the memory is intact...

Blue was mystical. Deeply, achingly mystical. In some profound way blue felt like home, yet made me

Red was the life force. Blatant, merry, carnal, glorious. My best friend.

Green was friendly and nurturing. Elemental, unassailable, worldly. I felt safe with green.

Pink: sweet girly joy, radiant and tickled.

Orange: this one cross-referenced Halloween, brightly lurking in the Christmas string.

I was ambivalent about yellow. It seemed aloof and ambiguous.

White, at least as a member of the Christmas string, left me indifferent and almost resentful. And yet I
was mad for white objects. Sneakers, convertible tops, horses. I once hounded my brother to trade me his
plastic white ball point pen for some mundane object of mine that I no longer remember. He eventually
relented, probably because I offered him something expensive and useful, and gave me the pen. I was, at
last, a member of the ultracool white object league.

I had a profound attraction, early in life, to the elegance and power of black. I remember once in first
grade, surprising and delighting my teacher when I was asked what color star I wanted to stick to my
forehead for having passed a test - as had the entire class. "Black," I said. Beaming, she gently explained
that there were no black stars in her little box - although “there should be, it’s one of my favorite colors
too.” But silver was a little like black, would I like a silver one? Knowing instantly, as children always
do, that I was being asked to accept a lame-ass substitute, I opted for red instead. She understood and
smiled again. I think she saw me in a new light after that.

Brown. Ugh. Redolent of furniture, wingtips, all things adult and odious. I remember how heartbroken I
was when my mother gave my brother and me our own cowboy mugs. Mine, “Tex at the roundup” was
in dull, ugly brown (which my mother thought handsome). My brother’s, “Tex at the rodeo” was in
glorious fiery red. Even my scene, the pedestrian roundup, made me feel defeated in the shadow of
Jack's exciting and romantic-sounding Rodeo. I’ve never quite recovered. And yet, if they both were to
turn up in some dusty old box some day, I'm certain I'd want my bark-colored roundup back. It was

An adolescent fling with purple was provoked by the purple shirt and black tie that George Chakiris
wore in a scene in West Side Story. Black light soon haunted my bedroom. Purple ink stained my
fingers. I even wore a replica purple shirt and black tie to a school function once. I don’t remember what
my function at the function was that night but I remember my favorite teacher congratulating me on the
job I’d done. “But get rid of the purple shirt and black tie,” he said. That was that.

As I grew, many subtle tints and shades, acquired tastes, joined in my affection with the primal primaries,
so beloved by the young. Even brown, and its many permutations: fawn, sand, coffee, taupe, found their
way into the ever-broadening palette I now enjoy. I made peace with yellow. More than that, I love the
sumptuous rich yellow of a yolk. The subtle honey of sliced ginger. The sporty energy of a highway
stripe. I love sea foam. Brick. Tea. Scarlet and tan. Purple and rust. Oxidized bronze. Dappled things.
Jewels and mud. And I still rejoice in the sight of a crisp white sail. The sleek black of a baby grand.
And Christmas lights forever.