Color is My Kryptonite

Color wheel
I think one of reasons I am a knitter is that I am powerless in the face of color—it’s sort of like my kryptonite. I see certain colors, and I just get all weak. I just want to stare at them. And, when the colors are on yarn, pat it. Pat it and stare.

If you ask my friend Chris her favorite color, her answer is “all of them.” I am a bit less ecumenical, but if I were to offer a broad answer it would be “the tertiary ones.” I love the way they seem to mix beauty and tension in equal parts. They feel alive to me in a way that the primaries and secondaries rarely do. Avocado, apple, tangerine, poppy, fuschia, peacock—yum!

My short drive to and from work offers me a wonderful buffet of colors. Going up to campus, I’m heading toward a line of tree-covered hills with a wide sky above. To the right, I look across a valley that’s often draped with fog. On my left are open pastures. Going home from campus, I look out across to city to the bay and across it to the dim shadows that are Carmel, Monterey, and the mountains behind them. Today, as I was drinking all these in, I found myself noting that nature doesn’t use a lot of primary colors. Nature, like me, seems to prefer the tertiaries. Most foliage isn’t green—it’s blue-green or yellow-green. Flowers are red-orange and red-violet. OK, I know this is an over-simplification, but I trust you can see my point: nature likes those tertiaries.

This morning, the redwood trees went from rust to black-green as they reached toward the sky, which was an improbable light blue with a few brush strokes of cloud. I can see a banana tree out my office: it’s yellow-green going to yellow, then red-orange, then brown along the tips. Nature puts all sorts of colors together—and I love the fact that as a knitter I get to do the same.

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