ants go marching

The bright red tail lights pierce the darkness of pre-dawn.  Car after car is backed up at the stoplight of the corner by my house in such a quantity that the sheer number of lights provides ample radiance to identify the make and model of each one.  I must be running late, the morning rush has already started.

High above them, red turns to green and the brilliant scene fades in an instant.  Brake lights disappear and the cars roll forward through the intersection.  Their headlights do more to obscure than illuminate and my vision is lost in the forward march.  There are so many of them.  Where are they going?  What are their stories?  Why are they out of their houses and braving the cold so early in the morning?  What jobs are they rushing off to?

The tail lights disappear into the gloom of the distance, the number of cars subsides to a trickle, and the stoplight turns yellow and then red.  The brake lights return, the cars pile up again, and the world below becomes visible again.  I find it fitting that when they are forced to stop the world comes into focus.  We all need to pause and look around from time to time.

I’m running late, though, so I turn away from my window and start my own day.  A few minutes later I find myself sitting at that same stoplight waiting my turn to be allowed through the intersection so I too can rush off to work.

You have got to be kidding…

Yesterday afternoon, minding my own business and watching some television, a commercial came on that I couldn’t believe I was seeing.

The date was October 19th.  The setting is my California condo.  The time is irrelevant.  Really, the date is the only thing that is important so I’m going to repeat it: October 19th.  I think that’s the only bit of background information you need.

So, what was the commercial you ask?  It was a “The holidays are coming commercial (better start getting your Christmas shopping done and look we’ve got sales going on already) complete with red and greens and wrapped presents and snow and ever other cliché “holiday” iconic images conceivable.

It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  It’s not even November yet.  It’s not even passed Halloween yet!  It’s only October 19th!  (I feel like I may have already mentioned that.)

I’m all for planning ahead and reminding people that the holiday season is just around the corner.  But more than two months out?  That’s not just around the corner.  That’s not even just around the next block.  That’s halfway across town or further.

Besides, it’s a little hard to watch Christmas themed commercials on TV when it is still 90+ degrees outside.  (Not even exaggerating there, 4 out of the 5 days this week our temperatures topped 90.)  (Maybe Christmas in summer is normal for people in the southern hemisphere but it’s not something even us Californians ever experience.)

Is it just me, or is anyone else seriously disturbed by the trend of “holiday” stuff showing up earlier and earlier each year?  (Disturbed is a pretty strong word – that might be exaggerating just a touch.)  Pretty soon we may really be doing Christmas in July…


Update: At least the Target add that came in the Sunday paper this weekend was only pushing their Halloween products.  That’s something, right?  We may have to see ads on TV for 3 months but they haven’t moved that advanced assault on our senses (and pocketbooks) to print or radio yet (that I’ve seen anyway).

“Red – a world about to dawn!”

This week’s writing challenge, a splash of color, asks us to consider the power of colors as emotional triggers.  As the challenge voices, there are certain colors that have stereotypical (cultural) responses – white: clean, blue: sad, red: angry, green: healthy – and there are certain colors that have would trigger more personal responses based on memories and experiences of each individual – the colors of leaves as the seasons change: reds, oranges and browns, the color of the ocean as it breaks on shore: a full gradient of blues topped with a foamy white, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon: blacks, purples, greys, and oranges if the sun happens to be setting behind the clouds.  These are all great examples of the power of color.  I could write blog posts about each of these, what they mean to me, and how the color influences my reactions and responses.

However, personally, the first colors I think of when I’m considering them as emotional triggers are Red and Black.  Specifically, I think of a song from the musical Les Miserables titled exactly that: Red and Black.  (For reference, you can check out the full song here: Les Miserables – Red and Black lyrics.)

My first introduction to Les Miserables came in the form of the 1998 film starring Liam Neeson as Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert (  I was so utterly captivated by the story in the film that I immediately went out and read the Victor Hugo classic.  I was hooked.  After finishing the novel I had the opportunity to see the musical performed several times, in several locations, with several different touring companies.  They have all been fantastic.  (Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the story no matter what form it is told in.)

This may be taking the challenge slightly out of context, as rather than “actual” colors I’m going to focus on colors as words, but there are several lines in the song “Red and Black” that help me relive the experiences of watching, reading, and listening to the story and relive the full ensemble of emotions that the story has brought out in me each and every time I’ve gotten to experience it:

The color of the world is changing day by day…

Red – the blood of angry men!  Black – the dark of ages past!

Red – a world about to dawn!  Black – the night that ends at last!


Red…  I feel my soul on fire!  Black…  My world if she’s not there…

Red…  The color of desire!  Black…  The color of despair!

Red and Black, two colors, seemingly such simple descriptions (they aren’t even the most imaginative or expressive of colors) but in this song they exist on a palate all their own.  They encompass life and death, love and loss, past, present, and future.  They are everything we have ever been and everything we will ever be.

Red is passion, hope, love, the dawning of a new day, the dawning of a new life, a new relationship, and all the possibilities the future may have in store, as well as the drive to make that future a better world.

Black is loss, and loneliness, the necessary evils to bring about change, strife, anguish, the demons from our pasts, the things that haunt our memories, and, ultimately, death.

These simple words, these two simple colors, help me remember all of the corresponding interactions and emotions in the story.  From there, the colors help me transfer my thoughts from the story to experiences in my own life; Red and Black trigger a flood of memories: pain and sorrow, triumph and joy, and above all love – that ever constant and ever fluctuating drive in all of our lives. 

Ups and downs, back and forth, good and bad, red and black: love and life.  These two colors can represent the entire sum of our human experience.  At least, when I’m listening to that song, they can for me.