Colour Has Shaped My World

I am an incorrigible sticky beak.

Translation from Australian to the Queen’s English – I am a nosy parker.

Further, completely necessary translation – I am a bit of an eavesdropper, particularly when using public transport or sitting in cafes. My excuse is that most people these days speak very loudly and I can’t help but partake of their conversation even when I am definitely trying not to listen.

I did a writing course a few years back and the teacher who was quite a well-known Australian poet admitted that she got her best material from listening to overhearing the conversations of strangers.

Often, when indulging in a bit of eavesdropping, disappointment reigns. All the effort of craning your neck forward at an uncomfortable angle and trying not to crunch your multi-grain toast so you don’t draw attention to yourself often ends up with providing you with nothing more than the various treatments needed for Aunt Edna’s piles or how much Judy and Pete spent on their bathroom tiles. But today, I overheard something that really made me think.

I was in my favourite bookshop – all wooden floors and antique wooden shelves that run from floor to ceiling – with a wonderful secondhand section that is full of little treasures; when I heard two women discussing colour.

‘I am in a green phase at the moment,’ said one. ‘And various shades of brown. The effect is calming, tranquil. I feel closer to nature and the essence of myself. It’s a change from all the black I used to wear. I felt miserable when I wore it.’

‘I know what you mean,’ said the other. ‘Colour has shaped my world.’

She went on to describe the various phases in her life defined not only by music, books, and film, but by the colours she wore or surrounded herself with.

Those women got me thinking about the colour in my own life. I really think they were on to something.

Up until I was about five years old I was heavily into red. Red skirts, red pinafores, red scarves and hats, patent leather shoes. I loved red, not in the passionate angry way that often characterises the colour but in the way of fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood and the red of pixies and elves.

When I was 9, I remember being into purple. My favourite outfit was a purple suede mini skirt with purple lace-up knee-high boots, and a purple blouse with matching suede tasseled waistcoat (it was the ’70s) and I was in love with Marc Bolan from T-Rex. I got the outfit after a visit to London’s Petticoat Lane with my Gran.

The purple phase was replaced by the white phase. In my early teens I was heavily into Victoriana. I wore long, white lace dresses with white ankle boots. And lots of shimmering shawls. I imagined I was a heroine in an Emily Bronte novel or Stevie Nicks. If I dressed like that today I wouldn’t be out of place in a P Diddy video.

In my mid teens I was briefly a surfie chick. Lots of Hawaiian prints and fluoro and sandals the colour of strawberry ice-cream. That phase didn’t last long. It was replaced by the inevitable black upon black upon black, with the attitude to match. The black phase has lasted for over twenty years but I temper it now with greens, jeans and an eclectic collection of rock T-shirts.

Colour has shaped my world in more areas than clothing. In many ways it has shaped my sensibility. As a child I remember the brightness of it, the vivid joy of the colours in the world. Of the elation experienced running out into the garden and gasping at the redcurrants bursting into bloom in the bushes, plush and luscious.

As I grew older the colour hung low on the earth, as if lit from afar. My growing preoccupation with where I fit in the world muted the hues around me to almost a soft shade of pastel. As I searched, waited, and dabbled with disillusion, the world turned sepia like a vintage photograph.

Years later when disaster of one kind or another struck, the world turned monochromatic. It was so startling I could only look at my shoes when I walked for fear of seeing an image so unsettling I would have to run for cover.

I look back at those days not as dark days but as bland, circumspect days where I learnt the meaning of the phrase : you can’t see the forest for the trees. It was an odd time, an introspective time, that prevented me from seeing the myriad colours around me, so busy was I looking inward.

But oh, how times have changed. Colour is everywhere. It assails me, jumping in my path, waving at me from hilltop and sky; ten thousand shades of beauty. How could I have ignored it for so long? How could I not have seen?

Take some time today – even if only for a moment – to see how colour shapes your world. And don’t just smell the roses. See them.

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32 thoughts on “Colour Has Shaped My World

  1. Good post! What is strange to me is how colors go through trends. I remember when I first saw a friend wearing chartreuse a few years ago. I thought to myself, “Ugly color. Looks good on no one. I’ll never wear it.”

    Guess what color I have on?

    I’m from the Southern U.S. where we have always worn lots of colors. It was very strange to me when I attended an MFA program in New England (USA) where almost all the other students dressed in all black, all the time. Even in dead summer. I had on my normal clothes (colors galore) and was told I looked Caribbean. Perhaps I did. Perhaps I do!

    I’ve accidentally gone overboard in the blue department in my house lately. One project was supposed to be blue-green but there is no blue-green paint, only blue or green. (No matter what they tell you.) I hope this abundance of blue rooms won’t make me tire of my lovely blues.

    There’s probably a grad student somewhere (or a government grant) that’s done a studies of colors and world events, colors and socio-economic levels, etc. Actually, I know that a study was done several years ago about the socio-economic classes and colors. A hospital I was working in was painted with lots of orange and purple — I was told that was because it was the preference of the demographics we served (poor inner city folks).

    Truthfully, I’m into whatever colors make me look thin. Found you by way of Angry. I’m Anne.

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  2. Damn. I check here every day every day every day – and then all of a sudden there are like four posts I haven’t seen. I’m not sure how you do that!

    I am committing the term “sticky beak” to memory by the way. πŸ™‚

    And I am smiling thinking of you in your Victoriana Stevie Nicks phase, and then your black on black on black phase.

    I dearly love color. But I am too lazy to incorporate it much into my life and my wardrobe. More often than not, if it’s not scrubs for work, it’s jeans and whatever old T-shirt/sweatshirt I grab first from the closet – from God knows what origins.

    Oh by dear, you are so right. Perhaps if we took more time to SEE color around us, the world itself would become a more beautiful place.

    And by the way. Re: eavesdropping? I always think, if they knew me as the fascinating woman I am, they would invite me into the conversation anyway. πŸ™‚

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  3. as i rarely leave the hose,, overhearing is a bit difficult,,, but you would be amazed at the things dogs say when you leave the room!!!!!!!

    and just so you know.. i still wear the black garb of my metal years….. i toned the hair down a bit… but ….

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  4. When I was at school, it seemed you could buy clothes in any shade you wanted as long as it was grey or navy blue. I guess I (and all my friends) must have rebelled at this; my first suit was electric blue, and I had a pink shirt to go with it.

    Nowadays, I prefer what used to be called ‘sub-fusc’ … a dusty sort of sage green (my car and my favourite jeans) a muted, rather washed out orange, beiges , stone-colours and coffee-colours.

    Might because I spent so many years in the military … my favourite jacket and T-shirts are almost exactly the same shade as RAF tropical uniforms.

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  5. Sticky beak. I love that. Back when I was a secretary, I listened in with half an ear, every time the boss was on the phone. The minute I heard a name of a company where we did business, I would pull the file. He’d come charging out of his office, all a-bluster, then stammer when I handed him the exact file he needed. My favorite character on M*A*S*H was Radar O’Reilly.

    As for colors, ooh, yeah… I go through all kinds of phases with color, but I tend to stick with solids because patterns don’t quite look ok on me. Especially floral patterns, mainly because I start resembling a parade float. But I do love me some color… Red has always been a favorite of mine… hm, in fact, I’m wearing it right now!

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  6. Hello!! I linked to your blog from Miss Britt. It was the ‘knees up’ comment that attracted me.

    I’ve just started catching public transport again and oh boy the conversations you hear on a bus!!

    And colour is a big part of my life. I used to wear a lot of black but found that what I wear affects my mood. Sometimes I’ll choose colour to mirror my mood or sometimes to try and cheer myself up.

    Good post and I like the way you write.

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  7. I started with a long pink phase as a child, then pink and purple (together), then pink and grey together after a sort-of friend at school put those two colours together and I realised how nice it looked. Then I went hopelessly off pink (bad timing too, since my parents had just given in to my endless requests to move into my grandmother’s old room which was pink), and became totally obsessed with purple. Then neon was in fashion for our age group and I tried and failed to find neon clothes my mother would let me have. Black was considered rebellious and I remember getting to buy a piece of fabric for a skirt that had bits of neon pink and black in it (on a white background) – for a moment I felt like a real rebel, until I got to school and realised I was the least neon and least black-clad person there.

    A close friend of mine put purple and green together; I was horrified. Then it grew on me. Then I loved it. My purple phase lasted ages, but eventually faded in favour of blue for a very short while.

    Then green grabbed hold of me, and still has first place as my favourite colour. Dark forest, emerald, or peacock greens. My husband got me into burgandy for a while, but always as a second choice.

    I had a belated goth period, and I still love black clothes. But I also enjoy colour, especially with jeans. My current favourite jeans are pale grey-blue, and I’m a bit addicted to sage tops at the moment. Although I recently splashed out on a deep magenta singlet that I’m having fun teaming with vastly different colours.

    Selma, a male king parrot came to visit me this morning: bright vermilion head and rich viridian body, with a pretty blue epaulet. He was just gorgeous.

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  8. Terrific post Selma and indeed food for thought.

    I also went through color phases. My first year at university I wore nothing but black. Not because I was depressed or in mourning, rather I was ‘in love’ with one of my instructors who wore (you guessed it) nothing but black. LOL πŸ˜‰

    I do think color has a real impact in our lives; much more than we probably are aware of. Glad I stopped in. G

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  9. JUST JEN – you are right. We all like a little sticky beak from time to time. Thanks for stopping by.

    ANNE – how lovely to meet you. That is really interesting about the way you noticed the change of colour in fashion when you went to school up North. And I love blue too. I find it to be quite a soothing colour. I am intrigued by what you have said about colour and socioeconomic status. I’m going to have a look later and see if I can find any of the studies.

    And I know what you mean about naysaying colour. For years I had a thing about green. Wouldn’t wear it. Thought I looked like a leprechaun. Now it’s one of my favourite colours. Never say never!

    NANNA – the problem with me and my posting is that I often write late at night and I don’t often post at the same time every day. I know you can do something so that if you’ve pre-written the post it will be automatically posted at midnight but I’m not that savvy (or organised.) I am also about 15 hours ahead of you. ( Yes, I am aging more quickly than anyone else.) That could account for my posts suddenly appearing from nowhere.

    I am cracking up re. your eavesdropping comment. That’s exactly what I think. Hahahaha.

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  10. PAISLEY – aah, a fellow metal head. Yes, once you get into that black garb it’s hard to change. And I know exactly what you mean about dogs – they know more than we think πŸ˜‰

    MELEAH – purple is a brilliant colour. I have a purple suede jacket that I wear with jeans. I’ve had it for years and always get lots of comments when I wear it. I think it’s a bit of an underrated colour!

    TRAVELRAT – For years I couldn’t wear grey after suffering with my horrible grey school uniform. I actually am a bit of a fan of the ‘camouflage’ look myself. It seems to work well in warmer climates!

    KAREN – talk about efficient. Your boss must have thought you were psychic. I loved Radar too. What a great show that was. I like red too. I didn’t wear it for years but a while back I bought this 60s style patterned dress in red, black and white and it looks quite good. A bit Mod but not too much. I am always pressing the wrong button or deleting things when I shouldn’t. It’s easy to do.

    TONZ – lovely to meet you. Miss Britt rules! Public transport provides the best material in the world, doesn’t it? It’s awesome. Colour definitely affects your mood. I notice it all the time. So glad you stopped by.

    JOHNNY – I am a big fan of ‘Overheard In New York.’ The things people say, eh? Blending in is cool. You learn a lot about your fellow man that way!

    DAOINE – please tell me you got a photo of that parrot! Oh, what a special moment. We are so fortunate in Australia with our variety of bird life. The parrots are spectacular.

    I am partial to a bit of sage too. Green in the right shade can’t be beat. I know what you mean about purple and green. I always thought – ‘No way!’ but it really does work. That is funny about you going off pink just as you move into the pink room. It’s always the way.

    GERALDINE – OMG, I have worn different colours because of people I have been ‘in love’ with too. I went through a brown phase because of a Uni lecturer. That is priceless. I’m glad you stopped by too.

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  11. Nice post!

    Eavesadropping is great inspiration!

    My Mum dressed me in blue when I was young (because I was very blond and have blue eyes). When I was a teenager I had no dress sense whatsoever (or wasn’t alllowed to). I think I secretly wanted to be a goth, well anyway that certainly influenced the way i dress now though I mix a lot of red shades with the black.

    I love colour in nature, whether its the vibrant colours of summer or the muted shades of winter.

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  12. Hi David,

    Sorry I missed you before. Your comment just suddenly appeared. I usually do go to the Writers’ Festival every year. Not sure what I’ll go to yet but I usually find something. Are you planning to go? I have seen some good talks in the past. Quite interesting.

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  13. CRAFTY GREEN – shades of red with black sounds really cool. And I agree, eavesdropping is great inspiration. Colour in nature is unbeatable. The best!

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  14. This was a great post. Very useful for writers as well to use colour to describe moods, or characters. Some people are red, other black, others are more green, etc. I’m glad I decided to visit your blog today.

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  15. Denim, black, and jewel tones – rich pinks, reds, purples, blues, deep greens, but no yellows or oranges or neons or lighter greens; they make me look like a cadaver.

    Despite my love of vivid colors, I had all my bridesmaids where pastels. Even the guys were in baby blue. What was up with THAT? Obviously I had some growing up to do!

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  16. GROOVY – you sound like me in your choice of colours. I understand about the pastels at weddings. I went down that route too. Many people still do. I went to a wedding last year where the groom wore baby blue with a ruffled shirt. It was actually quite cool.

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  17. I was into red from the day I was born to about six months ago. I’m not sure why. I felt like it was just an unnecessary burden I carried, as I had no valid reason for such an overpowering shade to represent my personality.

    So now, I’m green all the way. And my new bathroom rug proves it! πŸ™‚

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  18. Hi, Selma, I probably will be to going to the SWF – there’s a few poetry events that seem interesting. DavidM

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  19. I couldn’t get a single battery to work in my camera that day, so unfortunately no pics of that particular parrot. But I do have tons of King Parrot pics from holidays – they are such sociable birds, they always want to come and see what you’re up to. There’s one here – he came and perched on the chair while we were having breakfast outside:
    http://www.hearwritenow.com/australia.htm#Critters
    I’m in the process of doing a painting of this particular photograph.

    Speaking of sociable birds, we had about fifty sulphur-crested cockatoos patiently watching us putting our new plants in the garden yesterday. They were fascinated by our hard work. Every time I glanced up at them, I could just imagine that the little chatters and squawks meant a friendly little: “Whatcha doin’?”

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  20. CHRIS – funny how a lot of us are wearing green. Is it a sign of mellowing?

    DAVID – I would like to join you but will probably be stuck at work. The next few months involve lots of deadlines. Keep me posted.

    DAOINE – that parrot is adorable. Don’t tell me you can paint as well? You are so talented. I cannot believe how tame that kookaburra is that Peter had sitting on his hand. Is he a regular visitor to your place?

    All those cockatoos must have been a magical sight indeed. They are true characters, aren’t they? How fortunate you are to be surrounded by all that wildlife. Thanks so much for letting me see the photos.

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  21. I have always loved wearing red. It is definitely MY colour.

    When I first started work I used to catch the train into the city every morning with a group of girls I socialised with. Monday morning would come and we’d all converge on our usual carriage. It was hilarious because we would start seeing people put their newspapers down ready for our Monday morning gossip session. They knew we knew they were listening but hey, if it brightened up their world what’s the harm. Good thing there weren’t blogs around then or I’m quite sure we would have featured in a few posts πŸ™‚

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  22. GYPSY – I am so sorry I missed that. It’s so nice to have a group of friends you can have a good chinwag with. I have done similar things myself. Those were the days…..

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  23. Painting and drawing are my hobbies – I’m self-taught and not brilliant at it, but it relaxes me. Here are some of my past projects:
    http://www.hearwritenow.com/gallery.htm
    I’ll put a pic of my parrot up when I finish him.

    We do have a kookaburra who visits us and takes a piece of bacon from our hands, but he doesn’t stay long enough to coax him onto a hand. Those pictures were all taken on holiday – the kookaburra and King Parrot and the roos were at Jervis Bay (closer to your corner of the world).

    Oh, and now I have to tell you this – we spotted a tawny frogmouth between our garden and our neighbours last night! I bought Peter a high-powered torch for his birthday just for such occasions. And our littlest visitors are back for the winter: a gorgeous rose robin and his “harem” and a pair of Eastern Spinebills.

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  24. DAOINE – I think you underestimate yourself re. your art. WOW! The ‘To Catch A Thief’ one was brilliant. I had no idea you were so good.

    Know what you mean about Jervis Bay. We went camping there a few years back and a little wallaby climbed into our tent and snuggled up with us. I couldn’t believe how tame he was. I was too afraid to move in case I disturbed him.

    Oh, the dear little tawny frogmouth. They are so hard to catch sight of. You are surrounded by birdly beauty. Fantastic!

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  25. Thanks Selma! And LOL about the wallaby. That’s really cute.

    We are extremely lucky where we are. We get great pleasure out of living here. πŸ™‚

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