I started my usual neighborhood walk, feeling like nothing EVER changes, when a poppy in a neighbor’s yard grabbed my attention. It had delicate petals, fiery orange, with a center shaped like a perfectly round sea anemone surrounded by brilliant purple-black riffles. I remembered from springs past how uncommon orange is around here, somehow not quite as abundant as the reds and pinks and purples and whites. We have many orange varieties – azaleas, rhododendrons, poppies, tulips, and a few others – but rarely more than one type of orange flower in any yard.
After that first sighting, orange started popping out at me. I could see it from a block away, waving me down, “Look at me! Look at me!” In front yards lined with evergreen conifers, bright green groundcovers, a thousand shades of green, the oranges were a tractor beam pulling me in.
Of course it wasn’t just flowers. Orange is the color of caution and safety, of industrial strength equipment, of electricity, of gardening tools, and children’s toys. Orange seeks attention. Orange wears its heart on its sleeve. Orange is not the color of introverts I think, though I’ll have to study that to confirm it. There’s certainly none in my closet.
But it’s funny how once you start looking for something, you start seeing it all the time. I was suddenly noticing everything orange on my walk, from flowers to warning signs to an orange peel at my feet.
There’s a name for this: The Frequency Illusion, or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, when we tend to see or hear something over and over once it’s brought to our attention. Of course orange was always there, but once I saw it and thought about it, I began paying more attention to it. (I love that the guy who named it BMP did so because after looking up the militant Baader-Meinhof group from the 70s, he heard it come up again right away.)
It’s been like that lately for me with William and Kim Stafford, father and son poets, both past Poet Laureates of Oregon. I saw Kim Stafford’s pandemic poems in my news feed a few weeks ago, and since then, the Staffords kept coming up everywhere – in my writing groups, in my news feeds, in a conversation. I’d hear about a Stafford poem, an interview, a video, or the time someone met them, or heard them speak. I went from never having heard of these men to having daily tidings, plus a sweet collection of beautiful poems.
So whether it’s the color orange, or poems by the Staffords, I’m tuned in and turned on, ready to hear more. I bet you’ll hear something more about them too now, or a frequency of your own. Let me know.
YOU READING THIS, BE READY
By William Stafford
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?