Yellow is the color of my true love’s teeth in the morning, when I rise.
Yellow is a radiant heat, a ripening, an over-ripening. Look to the south and to the peak of things. I look to high noon, to saffron rice, to egg yolk, and think of all that is not-lacking in this world.
Abundance can go so many ways: into a kind of refuge permeating everything with deep okayness in the midst of want, into overindulgence. The lady is asked to go to the zoo for an MRI. The lady goes to the junkyard for a weigh-in.
We fear indulgence.
We look at the last jar of honey on the shelf in the kitchen, and are glad.
This morning, we fired up Gustav, the pellet stove, for the first time this year. It was 58° in the house, a fact that Timothy could guess from under the covers, just by how the air felt on his nose. He is a freezing-house savant. I pulled the blue porcelain bowl of baking soda out of the stove’s recesses and flipped the switch, and got in the shower. Coming out – one red-yellow spark behind the glass. I stood in a yellow towel, Timothy by my side, as we waited for the first flame of the winter to fly up to life in the darkness. We wished one another a warm and peaceable winter.
Yellow is the color of sunlight stored in trees and kindled back to life in the cold air of morning.
Yellowhammer is a bird. Yellowjacket is an extremely unpleasant wasp that flaunts its stinger on millions of Georgia bumper stickers and little flippy-flappy game-day flags.
Is yellow the color of cowardice because abundance fears loss?
Abundance, fully integrated, does not fear loss, knowing itself to be beyond bounds of this and not-this.
So they say.
There is a yellow silk jacket in my attic, brought to me in California by my grandparents, after a trip to China. It's the yellowest thing I know – buttery, soft, rich in every way, lined in finer yellow, and embroidered all over with flowers, bats, and happiness. The appliquéd white silk edges serve to frame the tulip-intensity of the body. One year, I wore it to Halloween with a gold dress, yellow lipstick, and a blonde wig. People were disappointed when I told them I was simply the color yellow, but why? Is beauty for its own sake such an affront?
Yellow doesn't care. Yellow comes up from beneath last year's once-yellow now-brown leaves and trumpets forth daffodils with tacky yellow petticoats. Yellow wears a push-up bra and rhinestones. Yellow’s got a grill with cubic zirconium dice in it, and a tie-tack the size of a quarter. Yellow sometimes kittens into orange, sometimes hyenas into gold. It does not care about your pretensions of good taste. It’s got breast implants the size of cantaloupe halves, and a citrine navel stud. It shakes its luscious butt to music whose lyrics are best not listened to with any degree of scrutiny. It doesn’t for one moment worry what anyone at church, school, work, or the Junior League might say.
Did I mention I wear black? I wear black. I think I would feel physically ill, compelled to wear yellow day in and day out. The robes the monks I trained with wore were called yellow ochre, but that's misleading. They were brown. Earth brown, bread brown. No cubic zirconium included. More like a color-deflector than a color, actually.
By contrast, the Tibetans are into some deep saffron stuff, paired with burgundy. They wear big woolly smurf-crests of yellow yarn; they paint their roofs yellow and gild everything they can afford to layer in gold, as many times over as possible. From the perspective of high frozen wasteland, this makes perfect sense. If everything is already dun, the last thing you need is more brown in the world. Holiness and color are profoundly interrelated. I remember full-sized barrels of powdered pigment, in some Lhasa hardware store: waist-high containers of red, yellow, blue, green, uncut matte and saturated.
There's a gorgeousness to the world, born of intensity. It brings clarity up out of entropy. Not: everything all jumbled, but: this one sunflower on its prickly, massive stem. Usually the flowers that stand out and declare themselves as beyond compare are white – edelweiss, white orchis; or blue– gentian, Himalayan poppy; or purple – cattleya orchid, wolfsbane. Yellow is more like a reminder of the ubiquity of beauty in the world: gorse and goldenrod, black eyed Susan and dandelion. If scarcity is your bag, and connoisseurship is what seals the sense of worth for you, then, odds are yellow’s not your thing, unless it’s peonies you’re talking about.
Years ago, a meditation student give me what felt like a lot of money, at the end of a course. Shortly afterwards, I found myself with a friend at a nursery full of peonies in bloom. Pink, red, white, and then: this miracle, coral at its deep center, radiating outward to deep lemon yellow, smelling deliciously of clean laundry and meat, sunlight and the body. I was absolutely entranced by its smell, color, irrepressible strength rising from the earth year after year into glossy leaf, fat bud, and ruffled, warm petal.
The only one left for sale was somehow mold-blighted and sad, but I took a costly chance on its recovery, planted it in the front yard, and went into more-or-less suspended disbelief. All winter, under snow and ice, I came to think I'd been ridiculous. What could justify such a price?
It sent up red shoots in March, leaves in April, three ant-nibbled, fattening buds in May. Then, on the summer solstice, opened its eye, and I remembered. Of course! At any price, this wild beauty. Two or three times a day, I came out to sniff and to admire, to weigh the remaining unopened buds in my hand, to give thanks for the gift, the waiting, and the unseen processes underground, ripening this glory.
Every golden flower in the world arises from underground work, mining the material that comes up through the roots. Rich from the roots upwards is rich without worry or conceit. Yellow grows its roots in black. It ripens connected, and does not forget. It cadmiums and chromiums, mangoes and loquats, cheetahs and lions.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now