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.
Y is for… yanagizome – warm green with brown undertones
Yanagizome is a Japanese word, which usually translates as “willow-dyed.” The color yanagizome is inspired by what cloth typically looks like when dyed with willow bark.
I think it’s a lovely color, and I think willows are lovely trees. They are revered in many cultures, and they have been used widely for many things.
The willow tree originates from China, and in ancient times it was believed that willow branches could ward off evil. They were often carried or placed in doorways,
Willow has long been associated with dispelling sadness and darkness, and Roman burial sites were often planted with groves of willows. In the Victorian era, willow images often marked gravestones.
Paradoxically, the willow is often used as a symbol of forsaken love. At one time, wearing a sprig of willow allowed one to subtly share one’s heartbreak.
Willow has long been used for its medicinal properties, to staunch bleeding and relieve pain, among many other things. It contains salicin, which in the form of salicylic acid was introduced as a pain and fever reducer, and is what aspirin contains.
Willow’s ability to absorb shock without splintering is why it’s used for cricket bats, and traditionally the Dutch made their clogs from willow wood. Being a lightweight wood, it was used for artificial limbs before plastic. Willow is also well-known for its use in making wicker and sturdy weaving. Early beekeepers often had skeps of woven willow.
Most willow species thrive near water, and it seems particularly fitting that it is used in dye baths – maintaining its water connection. It’s also true that willow is associated with many moon goddesses, and as the moon is connected to water, it seems a lovely fit. Willow certainly has a lot to teach about going with the flow and flexibility.
In a more practical vein, willow is valued as an asset in maintaining the health of river banks by preventing erosion.
There are certainly many types of willows, and these three, weeping, crack, and goat, are cards from Lisa McLoughlin’s Tree Wisdom Cards
Another type of willow that delights me is the salix genus, native to North American, which are smaller willows known as pussy willows when the furry catkins appear in early Spring. There is a sweet legend of how they got their name. A group of kittens fell into a river, and the mother cat, unable to rescue them, cried for help. The willows on the bank lowered their branches into the water surrounding the kittens, who were then able to grab hold and be lifted out safely. Every Spring since, the willow branches wear clothes – tiny little fur buds mark where the kittens once clung.
The soft little furry nub is really the willow’s flower bud, and the fuzzy covering is insulation to protect from cold temperatures. When fully bloomed, the pussy willow blossoms puff out in a yellow coat, which is pollen. They’re wind pollinators, as it’s often too early for bees and butterflies to be available to do the job.
What about you? Are you a fan of willows? Delight in the promise of Spring pussy willows foretell? Like to dye things? Do tell – you know I love to hear.