By Tena Bastian
I find it ironic that human nature allows us so many shades of who we are at any given point. Regardless of how wide the spectrum, at some point, our true colors are going to shine through. Whether they are bright and sunny colors or dark and dismal hues, who we are is who we are and try as we may, our true colors are going to shine through eventually. There are times when we amaze ourselves at our strength and perseverance and commitment to others and achieve levels of brilliant colors that we didn’t even know we were aware of having. Then there are those people we meet that for no obvious reason just give us a sense of fear or sorrow or pain. Even the colors with which we choose to surround ourselves is based on our inner colors and the light we give off in our presence. As Meredith and Missy prepare for their big show in Cody, they can tell you that every person has a “signature color”.
In my mind, I associate color with everything. If I see the color of peach for instance, I actually taste peach ice cream. The same holds true with yellow and orange. I taste lemons and oranges. I have done this since I was a little kid and it has always been a natural part of my thought process. I also assign color to moods. Our compassion is deep blue, (by the way, so is a glass of cold beer) our anger is fiery red, our joy is the color of the pastel hues that one would find on a beach somewhere. I always found this to be really strange until my youngest daughter was in high school and one of her friends described the same sort of mixing of senses that I had experienced all of my life. Our color association was almost identical and the only difference was that she had a name for it.
Synesthesia is when our senses crossover, such as in the case of seeing any given color creates a taste or a smell. A lot of people have some level of it but some more than others. It has been discovered that creative minds, poets, artists, musically inclined people are more prone to experience it. Baylor university has actually done an interesting study on it and there are many books written on the subject. Some people even go so far as associating a color with each day of the week or day of the month or months in the year. Some associate color with music and two people in the music world that come to mind are Duke Ellington and John Mayer. My synesthetic perception doesn’t do that however most people I meet remind me of a specific color and sometimes that helps me remember their name or where I know them when I bump into them. When I meet a new person, they are like an artist’s blank canvas to me and as I get to know them, the colors become more vibrant but they rarely change from the ones my mind associates with them when we first meet. I also do this with animals. I have always wondered if this is what is meant by the term, “true colors”.
This has been a good week. It’s been really tiring but all in all, I can’t complain. As most of you know, we had a litter of six puppies on Wednesday. It was this mama’s first litter and she did great. Her milk was slow to come which made for some restless nights for us but she delivered those pups as though she had done it all her life. This is our Freckles and we call her “the freckled face fool” because she is really funny. She is playful and will fly from across the room and jump in your lap with no notice at all. She is happy to see everyone and will lick them to death but when push comes to shove, she will show her true colors. Freckles is an excellent watch dog. It is her job to protect the kennel and everyone who enters with us is safe but if an uninvited guest enters who is not supposed to be there, she guards it with her life. In my mind, her personality is associated with navy blue. This is her true color, literally.
This past week was a sad remembrance for a lot of us because it was the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and to say that it changed our nation forever is an understatement. It is a day that we shall remember for the rest of our lives. That was the day that aside from the chaos and the loss, so many people discovered their own true colors. They discovered their own strength and perseverance and commitment to others. Some put their own safety aside to help perfect strangers and others lost their lives in doing so. I watched the events of that day unfold and my heart ached and my fears heightened and like all of you, I tried frantically to reach those friends in New York to see if they were all right. I called people I loved to tell them that I loved them and I sat down and I cried uncontrollably at what had happened. The most eerie thing for me was at the moment the second plane hit the towers, I panicked and felt the need to bring my youngest daughter home from school. I ran into her room to find her schedule so I would be able to go get her from class and there it was.
In April of that same year, just a few months earlier, she had been on a class trip to New York and while on the Staten Island Ferry, she took a picture of the twin towers against a beautiful blue sky, the same blue sky that adorned the heavens that morning and it was hanging on her wall. In front of it, suspended from the ceiling, right in front of the photo was an airplane. It was an airplane model that her friend Craig had made for her and although it was a coincidence, there it was hanging in front of the photo of the towers and it made me physically ill.
On the one year anniversary, I took a flight to New York and stood at ground zero and I must tell you that what we saw on television didn’t even compare to actually being there. My senses were heightened by the smell of the smoke that was still coming from the fallen buildings and sounds of sobbing mourners and the sight of the wall where people left their tribute to those who were lost. There were helmets of fire and rescue personnel and flowers of every kind, There was a calendar with the date September 11th circled on it. There were letters and poems from loved ones and photographs of families that were now torn apart by the terrorist act that would forever change who we are as a nation and as individuals. It was so different from the beautiful photograph that my daughter had taken months earlier and for the first time in my life, synesthesia wasn’t just some interesting phenomenon because my ability to feel the pain of each and every thing I saw was heightened beyond belief. My mind saw the shades of grays of their sorrow and the red of their anger and actually felt the deep blue of the compassion in the hearts of those who stood at ground zero alongside me.
It was an overload of senses all mixing together to the extent that I had never experienced and it actually made my head ache at the intensity of it all. I had to walk away and I looked down the street for my daughter who had traveled with me and there she was with her hand on the wall, her head bowed in silence and all my mind could see was her sorrow. She felt it too. She may not have experienced the synesthetic perception that I was experiencing but she felt their loss and their pain and it was evident to me that her true colors were there like a banner that she wore across her chest that said, “Please God, please let us turn back time and stop this from ever happening”. At that moment, part of me wished I had never come and much less brought her with me but I was drawn there like a moth to a flame and I knew that the reality of what had happened would affect at least one member of our future generation. She may not prevent something like this from ever happening again but she would be a messenger who could tell her generation firsthand what it was like to stand at this place in history and feel the pain and sorrow that it caused and that was important. I knew that.
I could feel the dark and dismal hues, the true colors of the persons responsible for this devastating act of terrorism that affected so many lives and the depth of their hatred ran deeper than any place I would ever want to visit in my worst nightmares. They , along with everyone who was there showed their true colors that September day and I, for one will always remember. We are who we are and try as we may, our true colors are going to shine through eventually. That day and in the days that followed, there was a touch of yellow on the canvas that was 9/11, the color of hope, of new beginnings and light that would lead us all to a new place in our lives. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you on the week of the anniversary of that horrible day. Until next week, no matter what challenges you face, allow your true colors to shine through.
Tena Bastian at www.tenabastian.com