Reverse Synesthesia: If Words can be Colors, then Why Not Colors as Words

There’s a medical phenomenon called “synesthesia” where people see words as colors. This goes beyond associating “a dark and stormy night” with the color black; it’s actually an assignment of specific colors to specific words. Sometimes other qualities are attributed to the words such as gender, personalities or emotions.  This “neural tangling” or “sensory merger” as it is explained, mingles the senses and crosses boundaries most of us separate.

While some might label synesthesia as an “affliction,” many creative types consider it a gift. I don’t possess this “gift,” but I had an experience that made me think about it.

My gift was made possible through the generosity of a relative who had an unused timeshare in Aruba. For an entire week I found myself transplanted from the gray environs of New England to this island of happy colors. As I looked at the colors, trying to capture a few by camera, my mind was filled with words. To me, the experience was like “reverse synesthesia” – a profound susceptibility to the infusion of bold hues.

aruba-yellow-building-299px-cwordsontheflyThis building, for example, wasn’t “yellow.” It was sunshine, finches, bananas, and optimism. It was brighter than legal pads, less orange than yolks; it was coreopsis in the desert, daffodils in spring. It was baby chicks and lemon meringue pie.

aruba-green-building-299-px-cwordsonthefly This building wasn’t “green.” It was Ireland and watercress; tempera paint and mint jelly. It was the sweater worn by the redhead in the back row and parade hats in Chicago. It was lime Jello ™ , Crayons ™ and Kermit, too.

aruba-pink-building-299-px-cwordsontheflyNor was this building “pink.” It was cat paws and possum noses, the inside of roses that climbed on the fence of my childhood home. It was raspberry ice cream and vintage damask, a slight bit dusty and smelling of spice. It was ground phlox, wood hyacinths, and Pepto Bismol ™.

aruba-salmon-building-299px-cwordsontheflyThe “salmon” here wasn’t a color. It was sunrise and sunset, flamingos and shrimp. It was apricots and peaches and the warm glow of friendship.

aruba-aqua-building-299px-cwordsonthefly“Aqua” could hardly describe the celebration on this building. This storefront was confetti and sprinkles, cake icing and makeup… Birthdays and Easter rolled into one. It was water and wonder, playtime and parties, merry-go-rounds and Poodle skirts from the ’50’s.

Thank goodness we writers aren’t confined by paper and keyboards because the rainbows that dance in our heads are far more interesting.

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