October is all about orange, and walking at Topsmead in October is like walking through a luminous bubble of orange air that is paved with a floor of fallen orange-y pine needles. The combination of the red and yellow foliage intensifies the orange air because, according to color theory, “orange is the colour between yellow and red on the spectrum of visible light” (Wikipedia). In addition, the complimentary colors of orange and blue, on opposite sides of the color wheel, make walking at Topsmead on a sunny, autumn day especially intense because the orange foliage against the azure blue sky brings out the brightness of both colors.
For history buffs, there are some fascinating chapters in the story of orange. Let’s go back in time and start with its role in eastern culture. In the yin/yang philosophy of Confucianism, orange represents the ultimate state of transformation, which is achieved by balancing the opposite states of spirituality, represented by yellow, and sensuality, represented by red. In the Hindu culture, orange is the color of divinity and is traditionally the color worn by Krishna, the divinity who promises to go down to earth and help humanity in times of need. In Buddhism, monks wear orange robes to indicate their practice of perfection, order, and rejection of the outside world.
While the word orange traces its origins from Sanskrit to Arabic to Italian to Old French, the word orange in English is based on the fruit, which arrived from Asia in the 1500’s. Heated greenhouses, which were developed in the 1600’s and were a sign of wealth and privilege, sported the name orangeries because oranges and other fruit could then be grown year-round.
My favorite chapter focuses on the role orange plays in the history of Impressionist painting. In 1872, Claude Monet painted a landscape that featured a tiny orange sun in the center of a misty blue canvas with its orange reflections in the clouds above and on the water below. Based on this orange and blue painting and its title Impression, Sunrise, the artists in this group became known as the Impressionists. Orange continued to be instrumental for the Post-Impressionist painters. Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo that he was “trying to make the colours intense and not a harmony of grey” when he painted “the opposition of blue with orange” (Wikipedia).
The story of orange must also include a chapter about its role in keeping people safe. In the Pacific Theater during World War II, the U.S. Navy began using orange for their inflatable life jackets because of its high visibility. Today, road crews, school crossing guards, and beach lifeguards all wear orange for the same reason.
Of course there are the chapters about the orange of sports teams, universities, national flags, political movements, flowers, and food, but they are chapters for another day.
So whatever orange is for you, be sure to plan a Topsmead walkabout soon in the beautiful but fast diminishing orange bubble that is Topsmead in October. Soak up enough of that bubble to sustain you through the many changes that are on the horizon.
And do feel free to use the comment section below to add your personal chapter to the story of orange.