Saturday, January 27, 2007


I wrote this a while ago and I've been waiting for a lull. With PB hanging low until his computer issues get resolved, this seems like a good time:

I was describing my new jacket to Lynn.
Steve: It’s dark brown. And I have a dark grey shirt, and black pants.
I stopped.
Steve: Lynn, do you have any idea what I’m talking about?
Lynn: Well, I know brown and grey and black.
S: Yeah, but do you have any sense of what it means to wear those colors?
L: No.
Another thought hit me.
S: What do you know about red?
L: It’s a color.
S: Anything special about it?
L: No
S: Do you know that it really stands out, you can’t miss red?
L: Really? I didn’t know that.
S: How can I describe colors to you? I don’t mean what they look like, but what they mean, which ones go together, how they affect people. Obviously you can’t know colors like a sighted person can, but it seems to me you should have a better understanding of colors so when people talk about them, you have a clue of what they are talking about. So it makes more sense when you decide what to wear. Let me see…

S: I wonder if I could equate colors to some other sense. Say, what does red taste like? hmmm. I would say red is like chili peppers, because when you taste chili pepper in something, it stands out, you notice it right away.
L: Really, wow, I never knew that about red.

And so my search began for how to give Lynn a sense of colors. She’s over 50, very smart and takes no guff.

My challenge to you, as poets and writers, is to describe to her what colors mean. I’ve started by trying to find foods/tastes, sounds, textures (senses Lynn has) and trying to match them to colors. As I’ve talked to folks there are a couple of things to think about:
1. It is really easy to associate things with their color (lemon and bananas are yellow). At first I rejected that totally, but I suspect that the sun is so primal that it’s warmth on your face could, in fact, be yellow or orange. But I don’t think there are too many like that.
2. I think we need to think of something that gives a sense of the color and
3. Also gives a sense of the color in relationship to other colors. (purple is blue and red; some colors look good together, others don’t, etc.)

So what can you conjure up that I can give to Lynn to help her better understand colors?


P. B. Adams said...

I'm not entirely gone, Steve. Heh

Gina lends me her computer when she can so I can check in here. I've been posting new works in our library if you'd like to read something new by the way.

About your challenge–I think it's one of the best writing challenges I've seen in a long time. Thanks for giving us a chance to do something tangibly useful as writers. Not that writing is useless but certainly less tangible usually. I'll get back to this. I hope you get a lot of answers. Thanks for this, Steve.

Alaska Steve said...

PB - I saw earlier that you'd put something new into the library. My dilemma at the moment finding someone to remove things from my reading list. Glad you like the challenge. I'd also add, while looking into this I discovered something called synaesthesia - where people link different senses. Common examples are when people see each number a specific color. Such as 1 is blue, 2 is green, etc. They don't change.

ragingplanetfire said...

A very difficult challenge.

Colours may change/differ depending on mood, substance use, and emotions.

Very difficult to classify colours- I honestly don't know what to do with this one.

P. B. Adams said...

Just wanted to let you know, Steve, that I have been working on this. I've gotten about a half dozen colors done so far. I should be posting a reply in a day or two. Thanks again for this.

Eve said...

Oh I love this challenge!


Biting into a perfectly ripe Georgia Peach.

P. B. Adams said...

I didn't forget this challenge, Steve. I was hoping other would post something first here but I didn't want to make you wait a lot longer so here's what I came up with so far:


The click and rasp
of heels on concrete
city sidewalks, gritty
bits underfoot, the scent
of city wastes sour
and acrid.


Tastes like raw mushrooms,
not the woody ones,
nor the Asian ones,
but the snow ones, pale
and tasteless.

Sounds like steady
light rain, unvaried,

Blue Gray

Some Memphis blues
or a sad Otis Redding tune
alone and late on a rainy night
in early spring.

Ultramarine Blue

Ultramarine is the flap
of sail in a light summer breeze,
a fine cool spray in your face,
a tall glass of iced tea
to wash it all down.

Forest Green

Cool and spiritual,
smells like heavy mosses
along an old brook,
feels like fern fronds
brushing along your cheek.

Kelly Green

Like fresh cut grass
with early morning dew,
raw and cool,
slightly spicy scent
of life.


Warm and cool at once,
a mysterious blend of warm pastel pink and cool baby blue–
like the first warm shafts
of sun on a cold morning
that makes your body tremble
with faint warmth on your face.


More dramatic version of lavender,
bold warmth of pure deep red
mixed with the chill of true blue.

True Red

Tastes like a bowl of cherries
swimming in some heady liqueur,
brandy maybe, that delights
your tongue with a playful sweet
flavor paired with fire.


Red blazing with orange
like a roaring fire. Spicy
color but with earthy undertones
like the scent of burning wood
mixed with the scent of fire.


Orange has the heat of red
intensified by the brilliance of yellow, yet with a character apart from either of these, having an earthy quality like a smell of falling leaves in autumn.

Lemon Yellow

A sweet yellow like a sweet lemon,
seemingly contradictory, sweet and tart at once. A total surprise
that wakes you from dreaming.


Brown is a neutral like beige
but warmed by touches of orange and red, with a smell like potatoes stored in a cellar musty but comforting like knowing your feet
are on solid earth, with a touch that's firm but gentle as the reassuring touch of a good father.

Orianna said...

Green is a rich earthy color. It smells like pine trees, mint, and grass. It's used to paint hospital walls to convey a sense of well being and healing. It's a soothing color that helps us reconnect with our primal roots. It's warm but not hot. I has a gently rough texture similar to an avacodo or sometimes tree bark.

Blue is cool wide open spaces. It is an infinate expanse opening out before us. It is at once calming and invigorating. It conveys a sense of opportunity. It's texture is smoooth like cool glass. It tastes wet and slightly sweet, like raspberry tea or sometimes spring rain. It smells like a fresh ocean breeze.

That's all I have for now.
Great exercize.

Alaska Steve said...

All of you - Eve. PB, Oriana - thanks for your contributions. I'll send Lynn to this page and the comments and let her respond directly. I think these are great. And the greens are fairly similar. I like PB's beige. Oriana, I think the info about hospital rooms is helpful for a blind person. People don't usually tell them things we take so for granted.

Alaska Steve said...

All of you - Eve, PB, Oriana - these are great. I'll try to send Lynn to this post and the comments and maybe she'll comment too. (She has speech on her computer). Thanks.

Roust said...

I had to try this one. I hope it's not too late. Beginning with the traditional rainbow, R-O-Y-G-B-I-V, and continuing with a few others.

Red is the sudden quick edge of a slipped paring knife,
Ow! Ow! Now!, is it’s cry, a warning scream.

Orange is the sizzle of the summer sun on flesh, a pleasure
Tinged with just a hint of pain and flirting along the edge of danger.

Yellow is the tickle of a feather duster,
All giggles and childish joy.

Green is bare feet on dew wet grass,
The cool, fresh tang of morning hanging in the air.

Blue is floating in a gentle ocean, the waves
Lapping sensuously at your skin, and underwater sounds rich in your ear.

Indigo is the cold intensity of a snowy January midnight
Silent, unabashed winter without the relief of the sun.

Violet is the feel of leaving the cold of indigo and
placing icy fingers under warm water, conflict and fascination.

Brown is wrapping up in a soft blanket with a cup of something hot
Held between chilly hands, soaking in warmth and homey comfort.

Fuscia is the life of the party, standing on tables and shouting, “Look at me!”
It is the sudden hug from someone you hardly know, a nice gesture but shocking.

Silver is the tingle of putting a 9v battery against your tongue,
A teasing sharpness that invites exploration.

Gold is the smooth enveloping feeling
Of warm honey poured over skin.

Gray is the lingering smoke smell of a recent fire,
Something that was, but hasn’t the will to be anymore.

Light blue is the after-rain ozone scent
Of rain and lightning, electricity and water.

Light green is 7up! Startling tangy crispness,
Cool and refreshing.

Pink has the warm pliable softness of a fat lazy cat,
Languid and reeking of self-satisfaction.

White is touching a window on an overcast day,
Completely smooth, featureless, and cool.

Black is when you accidentally walk into a door frame
It’s the hard edge, the outline and the dividing.

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