Having found lists of obscure/obsolete color names and rounded out the alphabet with a few simply-charming-to-me colors, each day, I’ll introduce a color and a swatch I’ve painted and then write about whatever comes to mind as I muse about the day’s color. Fair warning, my mind is a non-linear traveler, so who knows where my contemplations will take us.
Q is for… Quercitron Yellow: a warm rich yellow
Obtained from the bright orange inner bark of the Eastern Black Oak, its historical use has largely been as a dye but was also used in painting.
One of the facts I found most fascinating, and that sent me deep down some rabbit holes, is that this color was once also known as Dutch Pink. Here’s the most reasonable conjecture I’ve found so far: “At one time in history, the English word pink referred to a yellow color. There is no satisfactory explanation for why the word pink meant a yellow color. There is speculation, owing to its yellow tone, that it is derived from the German word pinkeln, translated in a dictionary of 1798 as ‘to piss, to make water.’” I certainly intend to research this further, but for now, I’m content just being delighted with the strange wonderfulness of pink meaning yellow.
In the meantime, musing on this color, my mind keeps returning to bark and, naturally enough, trees. So let’s head to that particular forest in my brain, and let me share some books about trees I love.
Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees by Cedric Pollet
There are seriously amazing photos in this book, and if you don’t fall in love with trees even more after seeing these images, then I reserve the right to be utterly perplexed. I’m filled with delight every single time I open this book.
The Night Life of Trees
This has to be one of my all-time favorite books. The art, done by members of Gond Tribe, is silk-screened onto black paper recycled from cotton waste. Each tree is accompanied by a short folk tale. A book with so many things I love – folk tales, trees, and gorgeous art. Plus, I’m over-the-treetops in love with the publishers, Tara Books, a collective of artists, writers, and designers who produce books in India, some of them handmade. They have a wonderful vision/mission and are producing some real treasures.
About Trees by Katie Holten.
Filling pages with tiny sketches of New York City neighborhood trees, artist Katie Holten began to notice how they looked like they were telling stories, or appeared to be some secret code. From that point of inspiration, she created a tree-type font. Every letter is represented by a tree – A is for apple, B is for Beech, etc. You can see it here.
The book is a wonderful anthology of eclectic writing about trees, gathered from all sorts of sources, and all kinds of authors. For each piece of writing, she does a “translation” – rewriting the original work into her tree front, thus creating tree art. For some of the longer pieces, the tree writing begins to look like huge mysterious forests.
I find the book appealing on so many levels – the gathering of eclectic writing about trees; the delight of the tree font, which turns everything into a foreign language like secret coded messages. And I just love that such creative explorations exist – inspiration is followed, and beauty results.
The Paper-Flower Tree by Jaqueline Ayer
A children’s book, this is a delightful tale from Thailand starring a little girl named Miss Moon who has a charming encounter with a peddler selling paper flowers adorning a tree he’s carrying. While she can’t afford it, Miss Moon wishes for nothing more than to have a paper flower tree of her own. The kind-hearted peddler gifts her with a flower and tells her, while he can’t promise, if the flower happens to have a seed and she plants it, it might well grow into her own tree. I, of course, encourage you to read the story to find out what happens
The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman
It’s a fantasy novel, her debut, published in 1992, about the adventures of a Master Performance Artist and his adventures both training to be a master and touring across the galaxy. There are two prominent themes – same-gender interspecies love and confronting censorship, both of which seem particularly relevant still, more than a quarter century after the book’s publication.
In addition to my thumbs-up rating, I’m mentioning the book because of the tree title. Here’s a quote explaining the other-worldly tree:
“The first merro tree was a latecomer to our world,” said the Dean, “and not immune to the Intoxication. As a result, its branches grew every which way, its leaves curled in fantastic shapes, and it bore not fruit. The First People believed that late-comer that it was, even if it did adapt it was unlikely to produce anything of value.”…
“One Blossom Season, after years on the edge of extinction, the merro tree suddenly produced a display of beautiful dark green leaves. It had finally adapted to the Intoxication. To the First People’s amazement, it also produced fruit, fruit of such rare and wonderful scent and flavor that the First People were ashamed. They declared the merro tree sacred and its fruit a gift from Heaven, to be served with reverence and eaten in silence.”
I find this such an encouraging, hopeful message, and much needed in a time when it so often feels like our own world is wobbly with strange forces of intoxication and chaos.
What about you? Have any tree books to recommend? Ever wonder what trees whisper to each other in the dark while most of us are sleeping? Delightfully intrigued by yellows known as pink? Do tell, you know I’d love to hear.