When you’re a new parent, you learn many things quickly. One thing I realized early on when I had a daughter is that when a child asks a question, she expects a clear answer. She’s not looking for philosophizing or thinking out loud. When my three-year-old daughter asked me one day what was my favorite color, she did not want to hear that I liked different colors at different times, or different colors for clothes than I liked in paint for rooms, or any such falderal. And so green became, quickly and irrevocably, my favorite color. It wasn’t really that much of a stretch.
My wife and I were driving home today from having dinner with friends, and in the late afternoon sunlight I noted, and remarked aloud, that the green of spring had come on quickly this year. Later I sat outside and read for an hour, noting as I looked about me how various that one color can be. The dark green of the grass, the variegated green of the weigala flowering in the front yard, the pale green leaves of the quince tree, with their almost white backs. This quick onset of spring greening is nice, but the unusually warm weather has not been good for some flowers, which performed poorly: the tulips, for instance, bloomed in all their pink and crimson glory, and almost immediately the petals dropped off, like some two-bit party favor. Green stalks stand there stunned and awkward, like a crowd of dancers when the music ends too soon.
My daughter, much older now, went for her first job interview yesterday. We talked about how she would answer questions before she left; when she came back, having gotten the job, we debriefed. A question we hadn’t rehearsed, and which surprised her, was what is your favorite color? Really? I suppose it might indicate something about your imagination or creativity, but this was a job as a restaurant hostess, hardly the place for imagination or creativity–so in the end it sounded to me like a question a three-year-old might ask. She had said pale blue, for reasons she could hardly describe. I’d like to think it’s because pale blue is the color of the sky, and thus the color of optimism or a free spirit.
Did you know that in many languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, and a number of African languages, there are no words to differentiate between green and blue? Color is more a matter of cultural perception than we know. I wonder if the inability to see a difference between blue and green shades is because they are the colors of nature all around us: blue sky, blue sea, and green everywhere.
Most plants are green because of photosynthesis, the process of turning sunlight into glucose for food energy: that sunlight is absorbed into the plant using chlorophyll, a green pigment. As autumn comes on and the days grow shorter, trees prepare to close down for a while and live on stored energy. The amount of chlorophyll in leaves decreases. In reality, the leaves don’t ‘turn’ red and gold and brown–the green fades away, revealing colors that have been there all along.
They say the Christmas tree, the holly, and the mistletoe are all attempts to bring green into our lives in the bleak mid-winter, so much do we miss the green and all it means to us. But the spring comes again eventually, the days lengthen, and plants come back to life. Green is the color of that life. As spring deepens into summer, it is expressed in green, green, and more green. Spring’s flowers fade, to be replaced by a thousand shades of green, and nobody seems to mind.
So no, it is not a big stretch to say that green is my favorite color. I would suppose that in some sense, it is everyone’s favorite color, whether they know it or not. We all live and breathe green, even if we have a flirtation with yellow or orange or some other color on the side.