The weather has been unusually warm here in the Desert Southwest (sorry about that to my northern friends!). Winter was only a glancing blow a few times. Since the days have been warm with plenty of sunshine, the grass in the back yard is beginning to green up and some fruit trees are already blooming, masses of pale pink and white flowers. One of my geraniums is blooming, the hot fuchsia color is so welcome, and the hardy roses are putting on lovely reddish new growth. Am sure they will be in full bloom in several weeks. And, happily, the much beloved Spanish lavender is setting buds. Soon the cacti and other native desert plants will be in full bloom - maybe not the showiest of flowers, but gorgeously sublime nonetheless.
I have always been fascinated with words, especially when it comes to colors. Just how many different words are there to describe a color? But one person “blue” is not always another person’s “blue.” My husband is a good example. This past weekend we were at Lowe’s looking at paint chips: yellows, blues and greens. DH’s definition of any shade or tint of blue, whether it is a pale baby blue or a dark navy blue, is “blue.” I, myself, am much more exacting most of the time. So, if I see “cornflower blue,” I will call it that.
Since purple is a fairly rare color in nature, an almost magical aura has been associated to it throughout human history. The first historical record of a purple dye, called Tyrian purple, indicates that it began to be manufactured in the Phoenician city of Tyre in the eastern Mediterranean in the 14th century BCE. The dye was extracted from the glands of several types of shellfish, but especially the Murex brandaris. The process to extract the dye took about three days. Thousands of putrefied, crushed shellfish were left to bake in the sun. Salt was then added and the mash of glands were boiled down. (Can you imagine the overwhelming stench of the process!!!). It took about 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye, barely enough to dye a single garment the size of a Roman toga. In 301 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Diocletian, one pound of purple dye cost 150,000 denarii or around three pounds of gold. This is the main reason the purple color was reserved for emperors or individuals with titles of royal authority.
Red and green are colors that are closely associated with Christmas. Last week I shared how red became a Christmas color. You can read that post here: Think Red for Artisan Christmas Gifts. This week, green, the other Christmas color, is explored mainly through the symbolism of holly, mistletoe and evergreen trees.
The color green and its association with the time around Christmas has a pre-Christian origin, more specifically tied to the Winter Solstice. Evergreen plants, like holly, mistletoe and pine, spruce or fir trees have been used for thousands of years to decorate and brighten up buildings during the long, dark, cold winter when life could be very tenuous. Ancient peoples were scared of the short days and freezing nights and mistakenly believed that the Sun might disappear altogether. Evergreens reminded people that spring would come and that winter wouldn't last forever. Historical records show that the Romans wove wreaths of holly to hang on their walls and doors to celebrate the winter solstice / Saturnalia. They also exchanged evergreen branches as a sign of good luck. The ancient Egyptians would bring green date palm branches into their homes during their mid- winter festivals as a symbol of "life triumphant over death." To the ancient people, the color green represented life, nature, peace, eternity and the hope of the future.
The color combination of red and green is closely associated with Christmas - for example, Santa’s red clothing and green holly with red berries. But how did this come about? From ancient history to modern time, color has been an integral part of cultural awareness and even an understanding of life; it touched all members of society and conveyed deeper messages (such as, only royalty could wear the color purple). Red and green as Christian symbolism can be traced back to Medieval Miracle Plays and rood screen painters. The color combination can be traced to the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh stories from the 13th century. And these stories were probably based on an oral tradition that dates back to the pre-Christian Celts many centuries before where a half-red, half-green tree figures prominently in one of the tales. In pre-Christian times, red and green represented male (red) and female (green), strength and harmony, desire and fertility.
Symbols have always had a great significance in the lives of humans, from pre-historic times to modern man. Since ancient symbols are ingrained into our lives, most people don't realize these symbols are everywhere. From the logos of modern companies (Starbucks with their mermaid), to television shows (spirals in True Detective) and movies (Legendary Pictures with their Celtic knot logo) from religious books and texts (The Bible, The Koran) to decorations on buildings (sunbursts and dolphins), ancient symbols are everywhere.
My husband, Seamus (our sweet, goofus Moose of a dog) and I are fortunate to live in the Desert Southwest, a part of the country where the sky is immense and an ever changing blue most of the year. In fact, a cloudy day (like today!) is actually a treat! I was gazing out the window in my studio the other day when a Thomas Carlyle quote came to me: "The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better." And I have to agree! Even though I love visiting old cathedrals with a sense of wonderment, spirituality and awe - Canterbury Cathedral, Koln Cathedral, Notre Dame, National Cathedral, St, Paul's to name a few - I absolutely revel in the everchanging "great blue dome" that is above my head almost every day. The colors can range from the palest blue to a deep, mystical, velvety blue that occurs 45 minutes or so after the sun has dipped below the horizon and the sunset has faded.
In the Urban Dictionary, I found this fascinating description of the word "funky" as it comes to style:
"Funky can be a mixture of thrift store and name brand, lace and leather, a simple gold bracelet and a huge plastic pink one, matching or unmatching, a ton of jewelry or none, classy and trashy. Being funky is about taking risks, and not being afraid to get a stare or two from people who wish they could be as funky as you . . . funky is never about boring."
Even though the temperatures are still getting in the upper-80's to mid-90's here in the Borderlands region, the nights are dropping down into the mid-60's at night. Autumn is definitely in the air! I have noticed some of the leaves on some of the bushy sumac trees are beginning to turn. Due to lack of rain or the shorter days? Probably both. But it is nice to see the slide into my favorite time of the year.
Despite being gone quite a bit - and dealing with roofers, AC repairmen and painters once I got back - LOTS of new boho inspired handmade necklaces and earrings have been added into my Indiemade shop. Each are one of a kind; most I could not reproduce exactly even if my life depended on it! Many of the necklaces and earrings below use components from other artist friends in the design. That truly makes the designs unique! If something catches your eye, please click on the live link below the photograph to see more pictures and information. Enjoy!