From as early as I can remember, I saw and knew and related to the world through color and light and shape, and to this day not much has changed. Music is profoundly colored and shaped to me (and so are words and months and days of the week and names of people — I could write a paper on this in extreme detail), and light is colored and shaped too, and shapes that let light in are alive with music, and spaces with air and sun physically lift me in what feels like shapes and colors and sounds…. It is nearly impossible to explain in words. But the three — color, light, shape — are intertwined, interconnected in such a way to me that cannot be undone, untwisted in my mind, in the spots behind my eyes and ears.
(As a student in Conservatory many years ago I expressed some of this sentiment to my violin professor, adding that I knew I sounded foolish and really, did he understand what I meant by notes and whole key signatures and specific rhythms having distinct colors and shapes and textures and then overall color-schemes–all very real, to me?, when he told me there was a word for it: synesthesia. That I was and presently am a synesthete. I do not know if it is a blessing or a curse.)
While my world is known to me through these three things primarily, you can imagine then how deeply I am affected by the lack of them — how my spirit atrophies through dark, unchanging, colorless days and nights. Living in Germany was like that much of the time (for me) — Dark, so dark. The country sits much further north geographically than I realized (until we lived there), so the days are so very short in autumn and winter and the sky, for literally eight months out of the year, aside from a day here or there, is a cement one, filled with an unyielding burden of clouds. And clouds without shape or color. It is without exaggeration to say that for a large part of the year the sky does not ever move or change. The final winter we lived there was the darkest on record in 43 years.
And we lived in an upstairs apartment, which I am so thankful for and actually miss from time to time — but it was a box of an apartment with hardly any natural light. There were not many windows, the ceilings were low and the building was not situated in a way to ever get any sun, were it ever to peek from the clouds. Oddly, I could not even keep a single houseplant alive in those five years, though I would consider myself adept at gardening.
A deep part of me felt asleep all those years. The only light I knew and clung to was the lantern at my feet.
This spot here in sunny winter Texas, where the sky is eternally blue and big and enveloping, where the clouds roll in and roll out and where the sun moves from horizon to horizon and the stars shimmer over the trees at dusk, where the crescent moon aligns with faithful Venus and Mars, and where the pictures I take of my children in the sunporch look dark simply because the light is so bright through the arched window behind them– The outpouring of thankfulness I feel on a moment to moment basis undoes the feelings of hibernation and personal suffering I experienced in our apartment abroad.
With swirling motions and spinning colors, there is again a song I can literally hear and see and feel (yes, I know this sounds crazy, but it is true) and I am inspired to play the piano and violin again and to turn on music in the kitchen — all things I just could not bring myself to do in that apartment, for no reason other than that the light was always gone.
Light, the colors, the shapes — sun, moon and stars — all literally soaking into my body, refueling me for this next season — calling me to wake up.