I’m always reluctant to name a favorite this thing or that thing when someone asks. I suppose I could dodge the line of questioning altogether if I’d just respond that “variety” is my favorite thing, but that might send the conversation off on an even more complicated journey. And as much as I’d like to think of myself as the sort of person who favors diversity, I might just be a contrarian. Besides, the evidence suggests that I do play favorites, as I discussed last summer in reference to my color preference.
Orange is the aggressive attention-snatching hue of warning signs. On traffic cones, roadwork signs, reflective tape, and barricades, orange is the color of imposed vigilance, screaming Watch out! Stay back!! Orange is unfriendly to poets (at least those of the rhyming ilk). I’ve long cultivated the opinion that orange is beneath my regard because it reeks of artificiality. It’s suggestive of lurid Day-Glo and fluorescent pigments. Orange calls to mind flapping flagging tape announcing that another piece of land has been deemed suitable for some version of the human imprint. Orange is bossy, a control freak of a color. It’s unnatural…leaving aside, of course, the fruit of the same name.
But I’m coming around to orange. It has lately come to my attention that orangeness isn’t inevitably geared toward caution signs or flyers shouting at me to buy something. You, gentle reader, are probably already aware of this, but oranges aren’t the only orange thing the natural world has to offer. Sunsets and sunrises offer plenty to admire, and they’re frequently tinted in wavelengths that read to the human eye as orange. Carrots are orange, as are the luscious Rocky Ford cantaloupes that are in season right now. The sandstone canyons of the Colorado Plateau are lovely and admirable, in part, because of their studious rejection of green and bounteous display of all that is ruddy, umber, and orange. Flowers, of the garden as well as the wild variety, come in shades of orange, as do pumpkins, ladybugs, autumn leaves, and the flesh of the Hubbard squash I like to stow in the freezer for making quick breads and muffins.
Like many of the internal shifts that can be counted as improvements in my character, this change of heart owes much to my surroundings. This high ridge in south-central Colorado rewards attentiveness, whether it’s with large-scale displays splashed across the sky or fine details suspended in the space between blades of grass. My brain is regularly stopped in its tracks, forced to pause and proceed with new input.
As it happens, this year’s wildflower display has demonstrated that orange and purple can be striking companions. And while there’s still plenty of purple to be seen in the flowerpots around the house and I’m trying to grow a variety of purple carrot in the garden this year, there are also marigolds and California poppies. As orange increasingly joins purple—and the blue of flax and the yellow of sunflowers and the marvelous greens of our many grasses—in the hierarchy of my color preference, I have to wonder whether I do simply favor variety, after all.