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Color & Light, Revisited

The Taiwan Lantern Festival, most fully realized in Taipei (and boy, is it ever!) is a grand, amazing, two-week long celebration of color and light! And my brain and I were lucky enough to see it in person last month. I’m still marveling.

I adore bright colors and lights. Creativity. Humor. My biggest goal with art is to bring joy through color. So the Festival was right up my alley. Plus, this year the Festival honored the Lunar Year of the Rabbit, my Chinese zodiac sign. Rabbits all over the place! Rabbits, tigers, dragons, dogs, birds, people, Minions, Alice in Wonderland, the Coronavirus–all rendered in fabric and framing–lit up the Festival night after night, to my own and everyone else’s delight.

One whole big area of the Festival was mostly just lights, on the ground, in the trees, beamed onto buildings, and dangling overhead as hoops and orbs. Taipei 101, the huge tower that looms over the city, was lit up, too, with colorful projected images, both still and video.

I went three times. Twice at night and once on a cloudy day, when the lantern sculptures were still amazing and beautiful.

But do color and light make us happy, as I like to think? I’ve done a tiny bit of research on this.

Researchers have determined that there are non-visual effects of color on the brain. Red light raises heart rate, while blue light lowers it. In Tokyo, blue lights were installed at the ends of railway platforms to reduce suicides. The suicide rate at those stations fell by 74%! Clearly, something important is happening. They concluded, “It is clear that light, and colour specifically, can affect us in ways that go far beyond regular colour vision.” The call is for more research to discover the effects of color and light on sleep, mood, and well-being, among other things.

I could almost say that the vivid colors and lights of the Lantern Festival had a long-range effect on my mood. I love looking back at my photos of the entries by children in middle school and above, inmates of prisons and detention facilities, and by businesses and even other countries. I can easily go back there in my mind. I just know that I feel very lucky that I was able to see it and I will never forget it. My eyes and brain had a feast.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” ― alice walker, The Color Purple

“I don’t fancy colors of the face, I’m always attracted to colors of the brain.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson

“After a lifetime of darkness, I want to leave something behind that is made of light.” ― Marie Lu, The Midnight Star

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”― John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ”― Oscar Wilde

If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.

Thanks for listening,

P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”

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