A Winter Walk through Colour and Memory

As the day closes, the white light …

… reddens to pink.

And then blue rises from the pink.

At a certain point, they are equal.

What a point of balance in the face of the sun! It doesn’t last long.

Green is still present…

…but blue and pink are stronger. Shadows that are grey during the day glow. In fact, everything glows.

And darkness becomes light.

People who do not live in the Earth herself, might call these metaphors. They might say “the thing a word calls up in memory” (where it is laid down according to emotional connections and then recreated when needed, the way an artist paints a canvas) has a cognitive connection with “another word called up in memory”. Yes, that’s a metaphor. There are aspens…

… and aspens.

They are anchored by a tag, “aspen,” but what it calls up is ever-changing.

Applying this identification of one thing with another to the Earth, we get statements like “the aspen darkens”, or, perhaps, “the experience I use the word “aspen” to signify” has “a different emotional mood.” Some of this comes from Earth and Sun. Some comes from the act of calling it forth from the experience we call memory, or “experience in the past,” although we are creating, and repainting the memory, right here.

For scientific traditions, the “tree-being” is still a “tree-being”, despite changes in the Sun’s wavelengths due to the tilt of the Earth and the time of year. For that limited viewpoint, the word “tree” does just fine. Nonetheless, “the aspen” or “the tree”, the emotional memory that is about to be unpacked to be used, does “darken,” because now it is opened along with the real dark of the world. They open together and form a new thing, and from now on, the memory tag “tree” has darkened forever.

This happens in the world, too, not just in human minds or in the intersection between humans and the world. The sky is blue and shadow is pink, and together they are violet.

First, it’s a little. Then the effect grows stronger. Now the trees are violent and the darkness begins to be coloured red, too.

In Canadian culture, we call these shadows. Shades. Traditionally, we speak of the dead, of dread and darkness. Of fear, perhaps. Of dying. Those are all cultural metaphors.

These aren’t shadows. Look how coloured they are. Look at how you feel them as bodies now. As words, still, perhaps, but these words are bodies. What you see below is a conversation.

White, all colours at once, capable of separating in a continually changing shimmer depending up on what it strikes and how it is observed (or remembered, or spoken, which are all the same thing) …

… has shifted that far. In 1819, the scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published his Farbenlehre, his Discourse on Colour, to deliver his observation that all colour comes from the boundary of darkness and light within the human eye. We know more about the eye now.

But the boundary between body and thought, and how they move through each other, ah, Goethe was 200 years ahead of us.


Aspens, birches, cedars and pines at Rose Swanson Mountain.

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