I was challenged the other day to try to describe the color red in such a way that a person who has never seen color would understand it. At that moment a picture formed in my mind and so this is where it has led:
An Essay on the Color Red
Red is a color, everyone knows it’s a color, even people who cannot see know there is a color called ‘red’. There are countless things that are red in this world: stop signs, cardinals, robins, and worms; blood, roses, carnations, cinnamon, and peppermint. Different candies are red, so are muscles, cheeks, lips and tomatoes. If you look for red, and can see, you will find it everywhere.
How do you tell someone about the color red? How do you explain what red is? Is it wavelengths of light? What if they don’t see light? Is it a sound, a touch, a feeling, a taste? Yes. But what is red? Red can be fierce like a lion’s roar, but a lion isn’t red. Red can also be anger or love. How about those?
Have you ever been so mad, so absolutely speechless and angry that you couldn’t think straight? That your head hurt? Your forehead crinkled? You felt so pent up inside, wanting to scream? If you try screaming nothing comes out because you don’t even have words to say, or you have too many words to spit out at once? Have you been so livid that everything in your body tenses, your heart races, your ears hear a rushing sound as blood races by them? If you could release it all in one giant jolt, something or someone would die? That kind of anger is red.
Have you ever felt so in love that your heart was about to burst? You couldn’t think of a single negative thing no matter what? If someone were to make you trip and fall you would just hop back up on your feet, brush yourself off and keep on going? You keep a smile on your face knowing that life has so much to live for. There’s something magical going on in your life and you have someone to share it with you. Have you ever felt your cheeks get warm after the brush of your lover’s lips on yours? Felt the extra beat in your chest as your heart jumps with excitement? That’s red also.
But how does it feel? Can you touch red and know it? I’m certain you already have. Have you ever skinned your knee when you were playing as a child just to have your hand brush against it and come back wet and warm? Blood. Blood is also red. Blood is what rushes to your face to make you blush, making your cheeks warm with love. Blushing also comes from being embarrassed. Blood provides life to you and so here red is life.
Have you ever smelled a rose, touched it’s silky petals and then grasp its stem too hard? The thorns force blood to pour from your palm. A gentle touch of the petals, though, is like a butterfly caressing your cheek? Red. Roses are sometimes red.
Sound though? Can you hear red? Listen to a child cry, feel her hot breath on your face. Listen to her screaming bloody murder because she didn’t get what she wanted, or stubbed her toe. Maybe somebody pinched her or there’s something wrong and she doesn’t know what to say. Hot and sweaty from screaming. She’s red. Red with anger and discomfort. Her mouth is red, cheeks are red, lips are red. That’s red. What about the hot, angry child that can’t have his way? The temper tantrum in the middle of the store? He can’t have his candy? That’s red too.
Red is like Christmas sometimes, only sometimes. It’s not the smell of the pines. It’s the smell of the candy canes, the peppermint or cinnamon hanging on the tree. That’s red. It’s mixed with other colors sometimes. But red is definitely cinnamony and pepperminty too, like a hot chocolate with a candy swirled in the middle. The chocolate, that’s not red, but the candy is.
Red. How do I describe red when it changes so much? The truth is colors change too. There’s different kinds of red. There’s different meanings for red, and different colors of red too. I can’t explain it all, I can only share with you some of the things that are red. Like the railway arms blocking cars from crossing a train track, they’re red. If you are in the car, and the car comes to a screeching halt, stops in the middle of the road and you don’t know why. Sometimes that’s red, because red is what we use for danger. It’s also what we put on stop signs. It is used as a warning meaning be careful. No, not careful, it means danger. Yellow means be careful, but this isn’t about yellow, this is about red.
What is red? It’s what you make it. Even those who see red, see it differently. Sometimes, even if we can see red, we argue. Is it this kind of red? Or is it that kind of red? If you want to argue over which kind of red it is you’re welcome to do that too. Because sometimes red has other colors mixed in and it’s not quite so red anymore, but it still looks red.
Red can be spicy like a chili pepper, or itchy like a rash. It can squish between your teeth like a tomato or crunch like an apple. It can signal danger, anger, and love all at the same time. It can feel like a caress or a stab from the same rose. It is both good and bad, hot and cold, sweet and spicy, noisy and quiet. It is what ever you choose to make of it.
I’ve done a particularly awful job of describing a color to someone who has no color in their life. But hopefully, it helps, just a little.
thank you for reading,