Thursday, October 1, 2009

Panchromaticism--if It Isn't a Word, It Should Be

What is your favorite color?

Did you have to think before answering?

I'm not questioning your memory. I bring up the subject of your favorite color because I suspect it has changed over your life; therefore, you may have to think about the question for a minute and actually make a decision in order to give an answer, because it is possible you're not sure right now.

Twenty years ago, I would have said yellow without a second thought. Now I think of my old stand-by yellow first, but then I wonder whether I might prefer that burnt orange some pumpkins turn when they've been outside through a frost, or maybe the pure cobalt of the sky at certain times of year…or the clear aqua of tropical waters over crystalline white sand. But wait--fuchsia! I just love fuchsia, I realize. I find it dazzling in dupioni silk nestled next to crimson.

So I say…what? Yellow, as usual? Or Oh, I don't know, I like them all (a lie--I can't bear silly putty pink).

Maybe the answer depends on the application. My favorite color for clothing? In that case, because I have green eyes, I'd say olive green is my favorite color because I wear it well.

Or in my garden? Well, there I'd have to answer that it really depends, because I can’t get enough of the blue of iris germanica, but I also love that orange-red of Bishop of Llandaff dahlias (but only when it sits atop the bronzy burgundy foliage of that particular plant, because it's really the combination of the two that I like). On the other hand, I might have to admit that staring into the greenish-yellow of coreopsis verticulata Moonbeam, which I used to love, now gives me the same twitchy sensation I imagine I’d get by sucking on a yellow pepper--but I love that golden color of giant sunflowers and certain calendulas.

What about favorite colors for my home? I like to be surrounded by the deep colors in the Persian rug on the floor in my living room (I took my first steps on that rug)--and oxblood Chinese porcelain and taupe walls with crisp white woodwork set it off perfectly.

This is a more complicated question than I originally thought. Must I really choose?

I now see that there is no longer such thing as my favorite color. I like different colors for different things at different times--and in different places.

Is it possible this panchromatic answer is a reflection of broader tolerance I've developed through living a little bit longer than I had when yellow was my immediate response to the question?

It seems that the older I get, the more I realize that there really is a time and a place for everything. Even silly putty pink has its place, I reluctantly admit: it is the perfect color for silly putty. And yes on the Moonbeam, too.

What is your favorite color?

It this a tricky question these days for you, too?

Photography: Coreopsis verticulata Moonbeam,; iris germanica,


  1. Your question shifted my perception. My clothing choice is coral, and the teal wall in my dining room is perfect. I'd have chosen orange and yellow as my least favorite. Yet I'm loving the orange tomatoes struggling to ripen (I will rescue them this weekend, along with the green ones) and thinking of the autumn leaf colors in upstate New York where I grew up. A few yellow nasturtiums are still showing themselves in my garden. So I stand corrected, perhaps not in my ultimate color choices, but in my appreciation.

  2. This blog sounded like a recent self-conversation. I think that I like all the colors, but my faves seem to change with my life-eras. Hmmmmm