Monday, October 13, 2014

Descriptive Prose For The Color Blind

I'm going to take a break from the mighty Olaf and his tempestuous sister, Sue, this go round. I know, I know, dear reader that you are heartbroken by this. However, it can't always be red Jell-O and blanket forts. Sometimes there are just thoughts that need to be gotten out of your head and onto paper. This is one of those times.

Recently, we found out that our son is color impaired. We have to say "impaired" because "color blind" is apparently simply not said anymore. It would seem that reds, oranges, and browns all pretty look like shades of grey to him. No, not those shades of grey. Now, being the progressive parents that we are, we took all this in stride. We've labeled his school folders with the name of its color as well as the bins in which his clothes are kept. Red shirts in one pile (doomed though they may be - that's a Star Trek joke, folks), browns in another with a label in front. Crayons were a bit of a challenge, though. The 64 pack has more than your average primary colors and their immediate derivatives (Sienna comes to mind, in this instance), which led me to an interesting conundrum. How do I explain that color to him? How do I describe the red-brown hues of sienna or the burnt orange color of umber if he has no concept of any of those basic colors?

When our son was little, he would always get impatient at stop lights. We, his doting parents, ascribed this to youth and paid little heed to it save for his constant query, "Why aren't we going?"

"Because the light is red," we would reply. "See?"

Of course, that was an easy fix. The light at the top is the red one. But then, that drew me to another everyday item. The stop sign. My son can read now and the shape of the sign is tell tale enough, but what if you had to describe a stop sign to someone? Someone who couldn't see red? How do you describe that sign without using color?

The other day my son was playing with his Aunt and Grandmother. They were playing with Transformers (as they are his world at the moment) and Auntie asked to see him transform the brown one. He was at loss. I knew the name of that particular robot and was able to assist from down the hall, but it gave me pause. Think of how much we rely on color in our identification of just about everything. I mean, we categorize ourselves (much to our detriment) by color. Cars, trees, soil, and all manner of things are classified and sorted in our brains by color. So what happens when you can only see grey?

So then I put it to you, dear reader, as a challenge - a writing prompt, if you will. Describe the things around you without using color: A sunset, Autumn,  a stop sign, your clothing, your pet, or anything else you might lay eyes upon. It's difficult at best, but maybe you'll see things a bit differently.

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