butterfly weed

What is this unrhymeable color? Is it really so difficult to live with?

fungus beetle on varnish shelf

What kind of fidelity does it require?

horsebalm with periodical cicada

Does it start as a seed, like a carrot? Does it confer second sight?

red eft

Does it carry its hunger as we do, from sun to sun?

orange and blue

Why do the fire-worshippers call it red? Is it just superstition?


Can it pay in any other coin but its own?

pine snag with doorway

In a world full of hazards, why can’t it hide?


What stops it from spreading to the sky?

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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  1. Beautiful combination of words, ideas and images! Orange! Mmmmmm, love it or hate it, it certainly grabs the attention. Just scrolling down your post Dave made my olfactory memory hurtle back in time to the days of sitting in a darkened cinema with my mum, when bliss was a rubbery, synthetic-tasting hot dog slathered in ketchup and mustard, and a carton of glowingly orange Kia-ora squash!

    What is that beetle standing on in the second photograph? Is it a fungus? It looks almost varnished.

    Here in the garden there’s a harshly hued orange lily that each year I dread coming into bloom. It has the sheen of plastic, more a manufactured thing than what you’d expect of a flower. It was left by the previous owner. For four years we’ve moved it around the garden trying to find a spot where the colour will work, but so far have lamentably failed. It blooms too late for the bedfellows we’ve tried it with, and now I see it’s about to flower in a bank of soft blues and pinks and violets, and yet again it’s going to wreck the vista. I fight against uprooting it and depositing it on the compost heap. I’m really not ruthless enough to be a good gardener. I wish it fitted so well into its surroundings as the oranges in your photographs. Blue works well I guess, and the vivid green of the first image. Yes, I think maybe you’ve inspired me to try again. Dave the colour guru!!!


    1. PS. Here in Wales, in the county of Monmouthshire, there’s a mountain called the Blorenge. It’s the only word of I can find to rhyme with orange, though not in any way that feels remotely satisfying!


      1. I’ll remember that! Good thing to trot out next time someone mentions that nothing rhymes with orange. Quote the Wikipedia: “The name is notable for being one of few words in the English language that rhymes with the word orange.”


        1. Further to rhymes for orange, there is the surname Gorringe, which is also the name of an Auctioneers, a School and a brand of jodphurs amongst other things.


    2. Hardly! I have a female friend, an artist and aesthete, who is my color guru. I don’t even know the names of the more exotic colors.

      I hear you about ruthlessness and gardening. I was just thinking this morning I might write a few humorous pieces about my own, laissez-faire approach to gardening, but we’ll see. I do hate artificial-looking blooms.

      Did you mouse-over that photo, or was it just a lucky guess? The name of that fungus, a polypore that grows on dead hemlock trees, is in fact varnish shelf, Ganoderma tsugae (and the beetle is a fungus beetle — we found them both feeding on, and mating on top of, the varnish shelves that day).


  2. this is great! orange is my favorite color, and i love your musings here. :)


    1. Glad to oblige! I was thinking of “red”heads when I wrote the line about fire-worshippers. Though actually I think this whole piece was about fire, maybe.


      1. I just logged on to the FIFA page and was shocked to learn about the upset. Go Orange! (My people, more or less.)


    1. Thanks. All these photos must be making it impossible for folks on dial-up, though. I will wait another day or so and insert a “more” tag after the first photo.


  3. “Vincent van Gogh, who children followed and cruelly taunted with, ‘Fou roux! Fou roux! Fou roux!’ had orange hair.” (The Secondary Colors, Alexander Theroux)


    1. Oh, I have his book The Primary Colors, but I’ve never gotten around to reading it. Any good?


  4. All great, but when I saw the eft I just broke out in a big spontaneous grin.


    1. Thanks. Efts are so common here, I rarely bother to photograph them. That one’s from a couple years ago, and definitely could be improved upon.


  5. Dave: I actually thought of you when I upgraded earlier in 2010 to hardbacks for both books. Don’t expect writing: they are brain-dumps. But dumps are wonderful sources and inspiration, no? His (historical, literary, political, musical, intuitive) breadth of allusion is startling.

    Orange, for example, leads to carrots, which in turn covers: historical colors of carrots, Edith’s Sitwells’s Aubade, Lewis Carroll, Bronson Alcott, and John Reed’s meal at a Soviet restaurant called I Eat No One.

    This is typical: “[t]arnish on silver is orange, as are baseball paths, pedicurists’ orange sticks, old-time Russian lampshades (according to John Gunther in Inside Russia), Rhodesidan Ridgeback dogs, citronella, vitamin-D pills, crabs, paragoric, ambeer – tobacco juice!- the tint of fresh coffee (stale coffee is grayish), ribbed Catholic confessional partitions, the lifeguards’ trunks and floats of TV’s Baywatch, the hair of jackals, and Monet’s border of nasturtiums (capucine) – they are edible – now profusely overrunning the sunlit paths of Giverny.”


    1. And yet orange juice is yellow — a discrepancy perhaps made less offensive by its frequent association with fried eggs, the yellowness of whose yolks is both proverbial and wrong: if the chickens were free-range, they’d be orange.


  6. What beautiful images and wonderful questions.

    I had to smile because here in Austin orange (burnt orange actually) is UT’s color, and I had to keep myself from reading this in a whole other way. We’re very pro-orange in these parts :)


    1. Oh yeah? I’d forgotten that. Here, it’s all boring blue and white (Penn State’s colors).


  7. Thanks for that – really made my morning — totally serious.
    It made me run and get my LP of Ken Nordine’s “Color” songs to compare his. I’ll let you know!


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