Craving Color: Painting the World Orange

This time of year is dangerous driving weather for me.

There’s so much going on. The trees are all changing colors, and there are so many different shades within those colors. I can count five different yellows. Not to mention the flaming scarlet, orange tinged with pink, warm browns against ashy browns. And by the time one tree completely drops its leaves, another one’s color deepens, and so any given landscape changes multiple times within a week. It’s dizzying.

I’m usually someone who’s drawn to more cool tones. Blues and grays are my lifeblood. When I do my laundry, all the clothes match each other. So it’s funny that in this season of riotous color, I feel drawn to the burning orange and spicy red and melting yellow. I’ve even—gasp—bought a few pieces of clothing in bright, rich colors that are totally out of my character.

I first noticed this color craving several weeks ago, before the leaves had even begun to turn. I got this insatiable urge to paint everything in my life orange. It was weird; like I said, my belongings are a tidy collection of blues, grays, browns, and off-whites. Sometimes I’ll go crazy and buy something burgundy. But I kept being drawn to orange. I noticed it in everything, my eyes locked onto every scrap of it, and I savored it like I was eating a visual chocolate cake.

Again: weird. Soon I began to wonder if this craving for the color orange was a subconscious craving for something else. I don’t mean to get all metaphysical, but I do know that colors speak to us, across time, across cultures. Color symbolism and color theory are fascinating to me, because while we might all perceive color slightly differently, there is still so much meaning that is shared and universal. For all the things we disagree on as humans, we can all, millions of us, still agree that certain colors mean certain things.

So on a whim I did some research. Orange is commonly thought to symbolize balance, joy,  warmth, energy, and enthusiasm. It’s a fun color, not as aggressive as red but not as calm and laid back as yellow. In some cultures, orange has ties to spirituality and is reserved for monks or priests.

Learning all this was sort of spooky, because my theory that there was something more to being drawn to a color was proven correct. Orange, and all it represents, was what I wanted to be more of. I was coming out of a season of transition, restlessness, confusion, and stagnation. And suddenly I was waking up every morning wanting to feel different, wanting to literally paint my life orange.

With this in mind, I’ve been trying to cultivate more orange-like attitudes in the past few weeks. I want to have balance in my life between enjoying the moment and working for the future. I want to have joy and enthusiasm. I want to be warm in my heart and warm to others. I want to be connected to the spiritual side of things and not merely stay stuck in the mindsets of the physical. I want to burst with creativity, fun, health, and vibrancy. I’ve also been trying to create little pops of orange in my life by adding in new and unfamiliar experiences. This doesn’t come easy to me, but it does reap a lot of joy.

As autumn deepens and the world starts to actually look how I wanted to paint it, I find myself drawn to other colors too. Rich plum, brilliant emerald, and that delicious melting yellow. Perhaps I’ll do some research on those colors as well. Who knows what I could learn from them?

The “V” Word

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One thing that’s pounded into you in writing class is the importance of good description.

I remember a class I took my third semester of college. It was an online creative writing class, so it was a little odd. I never met my teacher or classmates face to face; in fact, I don’t think I ever found out what my teacher even looked like. Her name was Dr. Smart.

Dr. Smart became more of an essence, a presence, than a person to me. She lived in my computer and wrote messages on my work with one overarching theme, which soon became the bane of my existence:

You need to write more vividly. 

Dr. Smart didn’t just want to read my words. She wanted to touch, to taste, to see, to smell, to hear them. And to me it seemed like an awful lot to ask. “Use your imagination!” I often wanted to yell into the computer (where Dr. Smart lived, of course).

Vividly. Vivid. It was her favorite word. It soon became my least favorite.

That fateful online writing class was almost four years ago now. And now I get what Dr. Smart was trying to say. Now I think I’m better at writing vividly (although I still cringe at the word). I enjoy the challenge of arriving at a scene and figuring out ways to allow the reader to use her imagination, by giving her enough touching, tasting, seeing, smelling, hearing details she can pour her imagination into.

But a funny thing starts to happen when you get used to describing things: things start describing themselves for you.

In January I drove home for a few days to visit family. Oil City is about two hours away from Pittsburgh, and thankfully it didn’t snow on my way or it would’ve taken longer. It had stormed a few days before, and the fields and trees were still thick with six inches of snow, crisp like cream so cold it could be sliced and laid on top of the earth. The air was clear and sharp like a bundle of glass. As I drove, leaving the highways for back roads that took me higher into foothills and deeper into forests, the sun began to set, and the entire sky looked like an opal, all iridescent and smooth. The light got caught in the evergreen trees and made periwinkle shadows on the snow.

In short, it was gorgeous. Every new blink of my eyes was like bite of a feast.

How on earth can people hate winter? I thought, because people do. They choose to live in a place where they very well know it snows half the year, and they decide to hate it. Morons. (Sorry for the name calling.)

But to me, now, as I drove and probably wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the road, the slew of gorgeous little details seemed so glaringly obvious. How do you not see the patchwork of lichens on a tree, or the way the grasses in a field are all a slightly different shade of brown, or the magnificent opaline sky?

The answer, of course, is that I’m a pedant, and that I only notice these things because I was trained to. I only notice these vivid details because some essence of a professor in a computer told me to write more vividly! So I had to learn to see more vividly! so I can write down what I see.

And then, as I drove through the Allegheny foothills in the winter sunset, I realized that writing vividly isn’t so important as an end in itself. It’s important for exactly these kind of moments; the drives through the woods, the strolls on the beach, the walks in the city. We write vividly so people read vividly, so they see vividly, so they live vividly.

I’m starting to like the word now.

 

Spring Has Sprung, and So Do I.

It’s a warm sunny day here in Western PA, and I am sitting at the coffee shop with a glass of Mango Ceylon ice tea.

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Two of my sisters and I went out for Korean food. I’ve hadn’t had it before, but let me tell you: Korean barbecue is the bestest.

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That green stuff is spinach, sautéed with sesame oil and spices. It definitely makes spinach more palatable. The thing I hate most is soggy, moldy-tasting spinach. >_<

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Spring has sprung! Tiny green buds are popping from tree branches, waking up and stretching out in the warm sun. Every year I know it will happen, and yet every year I am enchanted and filled with delight from my head to my toes. I dance around stupidly and sing songs from The Sound of Music with gusto. I bounce around like, well, a spring (see what I did there?).

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Why is that? We all are refreshed one way or another by spring. There is something about the warm rich smell of dirt that makes our hearts skip a beat. Somehow, by the smells and the light and the textures and colors and tastes and sounds, we are filled with ridiculous, familiar hope.

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I like to think that that feeling of utter joy was meant to be there all the time. God intended for us to always be delighting in His creation, be it through nature or through each other. But when sin entered the world, so did violence and ugliness and lost innocence. Now the pockets of joy we find are hard to come by, hard even to afford.

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But at springtime, we feel that joy again. And it is so familiar, and so natural, that we all long for a time when we can be free to feel it without guilt, pain, or heaviness.

Someday we will.