This year the fall foliage was especially beautiful. It’s always a delight, but some years it’s better than others, for reasons I never quite understand. Rainfall, sunlight, temperature? Who knows? But it was damn good this time around, a spectacular display and a showcase for my favorite colors.

Orange and yellow are my year-round “happy colors,” wrote Steven Price. Dan King photo

Orange is my most favorite color, with yellow a close second. Orange and yellow are my year-round “happy colors,” treating me not only to the radiant rusts and vibrant vermilions of fall, but the pale low-hanging sun in winter, the dependable daffodils usurping the dreariness of mud season and the fragile, fragrant skin of a perfectly ripe peach in late summer. As the silly song goes, these are a few of my favorite things.

Vincent van Gogh was also mindful of these colors. The blazing yellows in his stunningly beautiful sunflower paintings, so visually radiant you can almost feel their warmth just looking at them. As for orange, he used it sparingly, possibly because, as he wrote to his brother Theo, “Orange is the color of insanity.” He would know, right? With him it was hard to tell where genius ended, and madness began.

Everyone I know has a favorite color. My wife and I have a friend, a former denizen of the color-saturated high-fashion world, who decorated the entirety of her home in two shades – blue and white, top to bottom. On the other extreme of the color spectrum, I had a former female colleague of Greek heritage who dressed solely in garments of garish gemstone. Testosterone-poisoned young men prefer their muscle cars in eye-popping pigments, flaming red, lime green, Easter-egg purple, the better to be noticed, perhaps feared, and definitely avoided.

When Kennebunkport librarian Mary-Lou Boucouvalas interviews community leaders for her “What’s Your Story?” videos she always asks the interviewee his or her favorite color. A memorable response came from retired Kennebunk High School English teacher Joe Foster. He pondered the question gravely for a moment, as if she’d asked him what he’d like written on his tombstone, and then said, in his incomparable voice, “Well, probably gray.”

Wait, what? Gray is your favorite color? Gray hardly qualifies as a color. It’s more like a bad mood or an unpleasant weather condition. The response didn’t sound like Joe who has, in addition to a dapper gentlemanly demeanor, a spritely spirit and wry wit. Maybe he was just foolin’ with us, like the Maine farmer who famously told the lost tourist you can’t get there from here. Nope. Joe shares a condition with 1 in 12 men. He is color blind.


There’s a fascinating book by Alexander Theroux (the brother of the more famous novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux) titled “The Primary Colors.” In it he explores the cultural history of the three primary colors – red, blue and yellow. He gets into the artistic, literary, botanical, religious, scientific, culinary and emotional dimensions of each color. A kind of color theory of everything.

In the book Theroux meditates on the evil connotations of the color red. “[T]hat blinding flash of atomic light in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, brighter than a thousand suns, its searing heat 300,000 degrees at the hypo-center was red.” On a much lighter if not brighter note, a yellow observation by our former President: “Donald Trump hated the original flat yellow handrails at the Trump Plaza. ‘See that gold Cadillac down the street?’ he told his interior designer. ‘That’s the color I want those handrails. Gold. Cadillac Gold. Not yellow like a daisy.’” Blue is the rarest color in nature. (The sky and the ocean don’t count as their blue tones are a spectral trick of refracted light.) In Maine’s fishing community, an extremely rare and valuable catch is a blue lobster. The chances of finding one are 1 in 2 million.

What’s obvious is that color pervades almost every aspect of our lives. Colors affect us emotionally and influence us psychologically. We see red, feel blue and act yellow. Our cherished favorite colors can reveal a lot about who we are. So, while you might be a “blue person” or a “pink person,” you can color me orange. I’m just crazy about that color.

Steven Price is a Kennebunkport resident. He can be reached at [email protected]

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