Just recently, I woke up and looked out of the bedroom window onto a beautiful morning – low winter sun shining on the willow tree forming a tracery of orange against the clear blue sky…. Orange?!  Look again – yes!  Orange!  Bright, vivid, ineffably orange.

Orange isn’t a colour you normally associate much with winter.  Of course there are carrots, peppers, satsumas, mandarins and oranges, and pumpkins.  But I’m talking big amounts of colour you see round you everyday – like blue and green.  This is one of the incredible gifts of winter, often unseen, that we don’t normally get to see. 

We see sun shining on familiar objects such as trees, bushes, hedges.  But we don’t actually see beyond what they symbolize.  A tree is generally just a tree to us.  We see the outside silhouette, and register the impression of a tree. But if you look past the shape and presence of the tree and notice the branches, twigs, moss, bark, and so on, another world appears.  A microcosm of life – a mini-universe in the environment of the tree.  But you still might not see the truth of the tree at that moment.  For instance, the willow.

The realisation this particular morning that the sun shining on the tree at this time of winter makes the tree orange.  I thought to myself – “I’ve become Monet” – able to see through what I was seeing to the underlying colour and reflection of light, and I instantly understood what it is about his work that so appeals to so many of us.  His colours look fantastic – in the sense of almost bizarre or imaginary – and yet he is truly seeing what is there, even if very fleetingly.

There are a myriad of colours we see but which don’t even make it to our conscious level because they fall under the general impression of shadow or sunlight.  Think of all the purples and blues in shadows on snow!  No wonder sunny days lift us up so much – our sunny world is a world chocker-block full of colours which we don’t notice except by their absence, much in the same way that we don’t notice all the harmonics that go into music we listen to – we’d only notice them if they weren’t there.  Think of how you feel on an overcast, or rainy, or foggy day.  Drained – all colour gone.

So here’s a challenge – see how many unexpected colours you can find today – truly ‘see’ the colours of the light reflecting off familiar objects by thinking about what you’re looking at and what you are actually seeing.  I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.