In July I painted this Green Summer Day,Paschkis Green Summer Dayand these Ripe Red Apples.Paschkis red ripe applesIn the back of my mind I was remembering something the editor Elizabeth Law mentioned in a talk years ago. She kept a piece of paper pinned up by her desk that said simply; “Red, ripe tomatoes.” It reminded her of how powerful words could be, and every manuscript that she accepted had to deliver as much punch as those three words.

The phrase is evocative because it brings to mind color and taste, but also because it consists of three words. Three is the magic number.

How many billy goats are there?
De Tre Bukke Bruse (The Three Billy Goats Gruff) 1

How many bears?three bearsThere are Three Stooges, Three Musketeers and Three Blind Mice. Witches and fishes grant three wishes – not two or four.Paschkis three fish wishes

I have read that the power of three comes from the Christian religion: the father, the son and the holy ghost. But it could be vice-versa: the threeness might give power to the trinity.
Another theory is that three is a powerful number because the triangle is such a stable form.Paschkis Twist triangleHere are some images from a wonderful book published in 1963:three by three 1963In it the story of a day unfolds in threes.three by three roostersThe extra text on this page was written (many years ago) by my sister Karla who brought this book to my attention (a few weeks ago).three by three huntersThe sun has different expressions as the day goes on. The three foxes have remarkably similar expressions.three by three foxesAnd of course there is:Book of Three

Do you agree that three is an especially powerful number? If so, please tell my why. And enjoy a ripe, red tomato while you think about it.botanical-flore-des-seres-et-des-jardins-de-leurope-tomato-solanum-sp

p.s. If you are interested in adjective order here is an article from Slate. It explores why it sounds normal to say BIG GREEN CHAIR and odd to say GREEN BIG CHAIR, for example.

p.s.s. If you are a close observer of this blog you will know that it is Margaret’s turn to post. Don’t worry – she will be writing next Friday instead of me.


8 responses to “Three

  1. Another wonderful blog entry!

  2. Beautiful illustration here and I love the playful exploration of the importance of ‘three’. I agree that the number has a certain magic, and for me it’s about creativity. At it’s most basic, bring a man and woman together and you get something new – a child! Two things combined create something new. Hydrogen and oxygen and you get water! It’s also the first numerical dynamic where things get more complex. Think about a discussion between two people, and then between three. With three people it becomes infinitely more interesting because a third person has the potential to back up one of the others and create a power game, or to introduce a completely new idea but either way, it’s all much less predicable. After all, you can’t play tennis with three! H xxx

  3. Julie, this is really fun! When I get struck on a story, I double-check my repetitions. Four is clunky, two is not enough.

  4. Pingback: Three | ilripassinodimatematica

  5. The power of three, yes something magical about three on so many levels. I remember learning that odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye in my first design course and it takes at least three legs to make anything stand on it’s own. Plus the most powerful sentence has three words. I love you.

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