Finding Our Primary Colors








If you we re to describe yourself in three words what would they be? Asked another way, if you saw the words as your “primary colors”– the yellow, red or blue in you – what would they show the world about yourself?

Now that I’ve asked you the question, I asked the same of myself, letting my answers arise without thinking, quick as a fish to a fly. Humor, love and introspection are fundamental qualities that color my essential self.  They bring me into the light.

Let me take you through them. Yellow is my humor. It cuts through trouble faster than a streaking dolphin.


Last week I walked into my husband’s and my bedroom to find five men setting up a TV at the foot of our bed. They surprised me. Without thinking I said, “Well, I’ve never had 5 men in my bedroom before!” They squirmed, not knowing how to react to the woman of the house, but I laughed and the comic relief helped to get me through an unusually pressured day.

The color of my bedroom, as I wrote two weeks ago, is red trim with yellow walls. That’s as far as I’m taking you, except to say that when I wake up to see orange and red maple leaves outside my window streaked with gold light, I am sometimes overcome by beauty. Red is the color of love and gratitude. It can sooth a furrowed brow, or a trembling lip. It opens my arms, even to strangers.


Blue is often associated with feeling lugubrious (I could say sad, but I love this word,) or vulnerable, but to me it’s also the color of introspection. Going inside grounds me and reveals insights. Like all things, it contains a paradox: The darkest night reveals the most number of stars. Are we willing to go deep enough to let the stars in us shine brightly?

Three weeks ago, when I wrote about yellow, I could sense an essay lurking inside on “primary colors,” like a fish that hides in the shadow of a rock, waiting to snap an insect from the surface. Finding our essential self is like this. We have to have patience, but we also need the courage to look.

Voices that tell us not to stray from the pack mutter ominous warnings: Don’t be too different or you won’t belong.

I say, stay with yourself. Regardless of your background, experience, or any kind of “differentness,” feelings are universal. The uniqueness in each of us is being called toward the light.

Another paradox: We need the presence of black. It makes us grateful for color. The absence of color is like the night sky. It allows us to sink fully into ourselves. This is how we find the unique colors and meaning that arise from our essence.  Yet, blended together all colors create the presence of white. White light is the color of oneness, where we all belong.

May we each let our primary colors shine both separately and together. In this way we will find meaning, oneness, and belonging.

What are your primary “colors?”
What can they teach you?

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12 Responses to Finding Our Primary Colors

  1. Phyll says:

    My three color-descriptors would be: Yellow or Creativity, Red or Love, Blue or Sensitivity.

    Yellow is a happy color, one I associate with lightness, brightness, imagination, and joy. Ever since I was a child, I loved feeling this way and used to tap dance for my older sisters when they came home for lunch. My family still laughs as they recount these “performances” when we all get together.

    Red is the color of love or passion. My favorite color and the one I relate to most. It energizes, inspires and delights me in any form—flowers, clothes, Maple Leaves, jelly beans.

    Finally, Blue, my serious or sensitive side. From sensing moods and feelings in myself and others to relating deeply to animals and Nature. There’s a term called HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) coined by psychologist, Elaine Aron. A double-edged sword, of sorts, as I enjoy this “gift” yet feel sad/hurt, sometimes, by others and/or conditions in the world. Colors reflect our personalities, peccadillos and dreams.

    Wonderful blog, Eileen. Fun. . . and, food for thought! 🙂

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Phyll, I’m not surprised that your favorite color is red! Thanks for sharing yourself. Big hugs to you, Eileen

  2. joaneee says:

    Color me sunny . . . and shades of yellow – to the most pale – define my home as well. How could one awake – no matter how dismal the world outside is – in a yellow room and not feel that all is right with the world? My husband is one of those dream men who — for no reason at all — will arrive home with roses. Red roses signify love if that is to be believed, but over days those roses get darker – and somehow seem sad. And so — so many years ago — my always adoring, surprising, and loving husband — would arrive with a long box of yellow roses. I melt . . .. and yes, I know I am so fortunate as even now, he still expresses his love as he once did (and often and for no holiday) — and we dance around the kitchen to one of those songs: you know the kind as they are the “oldies but goodies”. It is heaven.

    And so my life is sunshine, lifting me high daily, and almost inwardly insisting that I bring this life to others for a moment, a day, longer — for this is what we are here in life for. I do believe that yellow is the magic color on the darkest of days.

    OK, I look for yellow in clothes as it is becoming — but I wear white as often as I can. No, I am far from “pure” but it is flattering — and it seems to draw people to me (or could I be imagining that?)
    Lightness, perhaps (though I don’t think about it actually, could be a drawing card . . . or not.)

    Thanks to you, Eileen, I have given time to think of colors that are normally accepted as ‘my life’, ‘my way of being’. Giving it thought, I would say that the lift of sunshine IN the home on a daily basis must have a part in making me feel as I do.

    Love from Joan

  3. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, Your “assignment ” is tough… I would describe myself as fair minded, interested and uncomplicated. Call me a changing palette !!!!

  4. Trina says:

    After the recent election, and before reading this, I’d have said, Black, Gray, and heavily-armed feminist revolutionary camouflage… now I think I might bring in a little pink…

  5. Don Hooper says:

    Dear Eileen,
    I love your blogs. You cause my brain to color outside the lines. When I read your blue notes last week, I reflected on my hippy, homesteader, goat-farmer emigration from down-country. Forty years ago, I landed on the tilted ORANGE County hillfarm we call the Barnyard Chorus where Allison Hooper + I have raised our three strapping, back-to-the-land boys. I took Taj Mahal’s advice when he crooned “I’m movin to the country; gonna paint my mailbox BLUE.” Pretty much what I did I guess.

    This summer, on a trip to see the floundering RED Sox at Fenway, I asked Alice, our twenty-two year old Vermont Creamery French-intern what attributes sustained her. As you would say, Eileen, “faster than a streaking dolphin,” Alice reeled off “Humor, Love, Reflection, and Curiosity.” They sure resonated with me and look identical to your’s, Eileen. Great to see how universal are our values, transcending as they do language + international boundaries!

    Kindly keep tickling us with you insatiable, provocative curiosity, Eileen.
    Don Hooper, a first-time caller from Brookfield, VT

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Don, I loved your response! You are such a good writer! Glad to hear we’re all in harmony! Keep it coming! With gratitude, Eileen

  6. haojile23 says:

    I have really been loving your blog Eileen, even when I don’t comment, or miss a couple of weeks and have to go back to catch up. (And catching up was just ALOT of fun on this otherwise dreary autumn late afternoon). It is a wonder how you are able to pack in so many references to all that is dear to me: nature, family, art, the breadth and depth of human experience, and the exhuberence of life itself. Plus the bonus last week of Stravinsky’s piano…Thank you so very much for painting this palette every week in a sometimes otherwise workaday world.

    And my response to this weeks’ assignment…For whatever reason, I have always gravitated toward Yellows and Blues juxtaposed: think of a painted doorway in Portugal with a sunny yellow entryway framing a cobalt or cornflower blue front door. I lived there for many years and always loved coming home to this- ocean, sky, and sun personified. And Red joined my favored palette when I brought my daughter home from China as a wee baby…Red is such a color of celebration and success in the Chinese culture, and when she chose to paint her entire room a rich red as a young teenager, I admired her boldness and rejoiced!! I am always grateful and appreciative of the bounty
    of traditions and gifts from other cultures.

    My 3 self descriptors/attributes: Kindness, Generosity, and Exhuberance!

    And great appreciation for the inspiration you bring with your Blog, Eileen. Thank you, thank you.

  7. eileenrockefeller says:

    Well thank YOU! Your words are very encouraging. I love the idea of your teenaged daughter painting her room red, and you letting her explore that color for herself! And the Portuguese blue and yellow are among my favorite colors together too. I have Portuguese tiles in my kitchen of that color! I can feel your three descriptors/attributes in your writing. Thanks for sharing all of them with me.

  8. haojile23 says:

    Eileen, I realize I didn’t sign my name to that last blog post from Haojile23. It’s Anita from Vermont. here. And Im still enjoying thinking about all the colors tonite as the first frost is about to hit the gardens outside. It keeps a girl going! In addition to your wonderful blog, I hope the book tour continues to go well too. Blessings, Anita

  9. Thanks Anita. Glad to know it’s you!

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