Colors and Memory

Writing about yellow last time led me to musings on colors and memory. I have a section on color in Voice of a Voyage: Rediscovering the World During a Ten-year Circumnavigation. Here’s an excerpt from that section. The yellow shark eyes refer to an incident described earlier in the book.

Swatches of color appear in my memory: a sunset-pink cloud of flamingos taking off then banking in the mid-day sun at Anegada in the British Virgin Islands; a cluster of azure butterflies at our ankles as if trying to guide my son and me so many years ago on a Colorado trail; the varying ocean blues hinting at their depth; the forty or so greens boasted of by Ireland and seen through raindrops, which painted those greens; the giant aquamarine gems of ice found within the glacier at Rhone and again in Alaska; the triple rainbows that I’ve seen outside Taos, in New Zealand, and from my home in Colorado; and, of course, those yellow shark eyes. My color images glow in quilt-like patterns prompted by some memory, some clue linking the past to what I see now.

Blog 12-sunset at homeColor also carries us home; this sunset above Mt. Princeton seen from my current home

Color often inspires our memories of specific places. There are many other references to color and its importance to a particular place or event in Voice of a Voyage. One of those is Uluru in the Outback of Australia and a sacred place for the Aboriginal people. One of the interesting aspects of Uluru is how it changes color in different light.

Blog 12-UluruUluru at sunset

Sometimes the absence of color creates a powerful image. As I wrote in Voice of a Voyage:

Color patterns frustrated me as I tried to remember a specific fish: was it blue then yellow with white or was the yellow line first? And on that bird, was there a white eye ring? Sometimes memory fails rather than creating a picture, a quilt, a pattern. How much we depend on color to shape our images. Yet some of those old black-and-white films were all the more dramatic without the added shades: High Noon is the quintessential example. Then there is the child’s red coat in Schindler’s List, the one color in that remarkable, dark movie.

In Bhutan, my grandson, Ethan, and I were particularly moved as we walked along a foggy mountain pass with hundreds of white prayer flags honoring the dead quivering in the breeze and appearing as if part of the misty clouds.

Blog 12-white prayer flagsBhutan prayer flags on Chelela Pass

What colors take you back to a special place when you were traveling and how does that affect your memory about it?

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