Take It Or ‘Leaf’ It: Red Is Ahead


My mother coveted red hair. That’s how I first became acquainted with the longing for red. Later she painted her library red, and when my husband and I renovated our farmhouse I imitated her with a Chinese red in our library. It was so exhilarating that I used the same red on the trim in our bedroom, with light yellow on the walls. Only afterwards did I learn that these are the Tibetan colors. The combination is surprisingly soothing, like meditation. If you put a little yellow next to red it both softens and brightens, simultaneously. But it has to be a warm red and a very light yellow.


What draws you to red? What emotions or associations do you have with it? For me, a quick brainstorm brings: ‘red in the face,’ ‘in the red,’ ‘seeing red,’‘a red herring,’ the game red light, green light, and red elephant sale. Okay, okay, I guess it’s a white elephant, but none the less . . . red tape, and so on.

Why do we need the color red in our lives? Just try to imagine a sunrise or sunset, or harvest moon without the red. A New England autumn without red leaves, the telling red ring of infection, or the blush of affection on a loved one’s face. Try replacing these images with yellow, or blue (the subject of next week’s post), you just wouldn’t have the same effect. In fact, if you were seeing blue in a face it might be “code blue,” the code for medical emergency. The color red flowing in our bodies indicates the presence of oxygen. Red is life. So for now, let’s vote for red.

image-4                                                         Emil Nolde, Tropensonne

But seriously, regardless of whether you love, hate or feel embarrassed by the color red, you will be influenced by it. Red is one of the primary colors.

I’m in love with red. I know I said that last week about yellow, but really, red is a better color for hair. And you can’t escape red. Embarrassed or not, it follows you around like a panting dog. Or maybe a trumpeting elephant with red toenails…

So those of you who shy away from the hue, why not embrace it? For me red is the color of passion. Run past the green light and don’t stop until you’re out of breath. Wherever your passion takes you is a good place to go.

P.S. I was just in Mexico, giving a talk on philanthropy, and Mexicans like red too. I think red is universal.

P.P.S. For those of you who don’t understand what the heck I’m saying, have patience. After blue there will be a primary purpose. I promise…

What do you like or hate about red? Is there an in between? And don’t tell me pink.

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14 Responses to Take It Or ‘Leaf’ It: Red Is Ahead

  1. Phyll says:

    My favorite color has always been red. I associate it with passion, romance, happiness and hope. From the time I was a little girl, I’ve loved red Tootsie Roll Pops. The other colors just don’t taste the same and not nearly as much fun to eat. My pups always wore a red bandana, my kits, a red patent leather collar, and my pony prances under a red saddle pad as he drives our red and black carriage. Red is in every corner of my life in one way or another. My PJ’s and nightie are red plaid flannel, favorite sweater is a hooded red pullover, my favorite photo is an arched red bridge that I photographed and named, “Serenity”, in the oriental garden at Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Love the song, “The lady in red, the fellas are crazy ’bout the lady in red.” Yes, red is here to stay!

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I love getting your responses because you bring me back to “The Walton’s” era! Thanks for all the animal images! hugs – Eileen

  2. Lauren Matter says:

    I’ve always loved the vibrate reds in nature! I love my Japanese Maple that I transplanted from my birth home to my current home and it brings me joy to see how brilliantly it thrives in it’s new setting. My favorite car was a red sports car, with it’s speed and flashiness. I now have a Pinot Nior dinning room, my favorite room in my home. The color red just makes me feel alive, bold and youthful.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      How “rad” that you transplanted your Japanese Maple from your birth home to your current home. They have such gorgeous red leaves in the fall, a little later than the sugar maples. The year my mother died, (1996) I transplanted a sapling from a 250-year-old white oak in the valley below their house. It is the signature tree of my childhood, so I understand your sentiment.

  3. Matt S. says:

    Nobody would have the temerity to bring up PINK after that, Eileen; red wouldn’t stand for it! Red is too bold and honest and clear and direct for that! It is both elemental and passionate. AND, because I know you love words, look up fulvous in a nature dictionary or the O.E.D. Isn’t it fabulous?!

    Really enjoying your blog, even when I don’t comment or reply…..

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      What a great word, Matt, though it sounds a little riské, don’t you think?? But then, red IS riské! (I know I’m not spelling the french word correctly, but it’s so you hear it right. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary! Glad you enjoy my blog.

  4. Hi Eileen, I decided toplay the “mind game” with the color red… Here are the associations I came up with: my pretty red cuccarachas that I was given in 1968 on a visit to Mexico, the songs “Red Sails In the Sunset” and “Red Red Wine”, a postcard from my husband on our refrigerator by Vincent van Gogh, entitled “The Night Cafe” which depicts a pool room with red walls, the MEMORY of our beautiful Japanese maple tree on the front lawn of our house, my red silk Christmas dress sewn by my mother for me in my 8th month of pregnancy, MY FIRST CAR, a shiny red Toyota Corolla which took me to/from work and to/from Cape Cod in summer, my heavy red glass dinner plates from Cardell’s in NYC which I use for “red” holidays and of course red wine!
    Ferrarri red wins– zoom zoom…

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      You remind me of my childhood toy car, which my brother and I called the “red bug”. There may be a picture of it in my collection here on the website. If not, I’ll try to upload it in the next week. You have so many good associations with red!

  5. Eileen, God forgive me for forgetting to mention that the Catholic Cardinals and Bishops sport the most beautiful color red garments that exist. Afterall, I am a Byzantine and Roman Catholic…
    next stop: Rome where red reigns supreme…

  6. Cybele Gontar says:

    Love this post!

  7. louisegil5 says:

    I don’t intend to be a spoiler, but tonight all I can think about is orange and black!!….like it or not, I am a passionate San Francisco Giants fan and they just won the first game of the World Series! I am sure that fans on the opposing team had red in their eyes!! Aside from my crazy statement, I must say that I have been told that the color red becomes me…..and I love it! 🙂

  8. eileenrockefeller says:

    Oh you foxy lady you! We’re arriving in the Halloween City on the same night I arrived 24 years ago to live with Paul! I’ll give you a call. Good luck Giants!

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