4, 5, E, and F are blue or green, depending on context.

About a week ago, YesButNoButYes shared a video about synesthesia. Psychologist and author, Dr. Oliver Sacks, describes synesthesia as an “immediate, physiological coupling of two sorts of sensation.” I didn’t have a chance to watch it at the time, but today I went back to it and think you might find it interesting, too.

I first heard of synesthesia, not in psych class (which I never took, silly me) but in a poetry class. In poetry terms, synesthesia refers to certain kinds of (often bad) metaphors with crossed senses. You know, the taste of winter, or something. The infamous Tom assigned us the task of writing truly awful poems, and part of it was the abuse and misuse of synesthesia.

The concept fascinated me. See, although I didn’t really know what it was called until recently, I’m a mild grapheme-synesthete. That means that I perceive certain letters and numbers as having colors. As I said in the title, the most clear are the numbers 4 and 5 and the letters E and F. They all have a distinct blue-green tone. Four is bluer than five, which is often quite green; E is usually greener than F. It is pronounced enough that my perception of these three symbols gets muddled if I’m spreading my mental resources too thin. There are many times that I’m multitasking and stressed, and someone will ask me to spell something for them – I’ll catch myself just in time to avoid saying “4” or “5” instead of “E” or “F.” Cool if you’re a hax0r, I guess; less so if you’re an English teacher.

(Of course, I could just be insane. Those near-and-dear know that my mouth doesn’t know the difference between my ankle and my elbow – literally. I wish I had a dime for every time I meant one and said the other.)

Other numbers have colors to me as well. Six is an orangey-red. Two is usually yellow – but if I write it without a loop in the tail, I sometimes perceive it as blue. Nine is usually a dark purpley maroon, although sometimes it’s a bright red. Eight is blue. Seven is a warm color. One is a pale cool color. I can’t specify any more than that – they shift. Three is either red-orange, like six, or green. I don’t know why they change color, but I think it has to do with context. I should track that.

Fewer of the letters, proportionately speaking, have clear color associations for me. The letters B and W are definitely a red/orange color. The letter I is blue or yellow. Ts and Zs are red. Ks are a cool color. Hs are a bluish-purple. Ns are a light brown – kind of the color of the light brown M&Ms, if you’re old enough to remember them.

I’ve got a bit of ordinal-color synesthesia, too. Tuesdays are DEFINITELY yellow, and Wednesdays are a pale red. Thursdays are an orangey yellow. Fridays are a blue/purple. Mondays are reddish. Saturdays are a deeper blue/purple than Fridays. Sundays are sometimes green, and sometimes gray, and sometimes… well, sometimes, none of the days are colors.

I am perceptive enough to suspect that some of my synesthesia is actually a byproduct of childhood experience and a near-photographic memory. If someone could show me a childhood book or TV show I’d known, with the colors and letters printed prominently in these colors, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Likewise, I suspect that there are some beneath-the-surface connections that play a part. Think about 4, 5, E, and F – four and five are obviously related to the letter F, after all. And four seems more blue – the word “blue” has four letters – while five seems more green, and “green” has five letters.

I wish I had a more pronounced sense of musical synesthesia – I think it would be amazing to “see” music the way some synesthetes can. Many prominent composers and musicians see certain keys, instruments, and sounds as having color. I have had experiences with this, but not consistently. If I remember correctly, I once read that the mastermind behind the “Toccata and Fugue” in Fantasia was a synesthete; at the very least, he produced an interesting approximation of the sensation. (Say that six times quickly!)


I also have had some experiences with spatial synesthesia – feeling as though things that don’t have actual distance or geographic location are somehow placed nearer or farther, more to the left or the right, than others.

And as it relates to memory – yes, certainly, I attribute some of my ability to memorize to my brain’s assignation of colors and place to things that don’t necessarily deserve them. 🙂

Do any of you experience anything similar? According to the almighty Wikipedia, as many as 1 out of 23 people may experience some variety of synesthesia. I’d be very interested to know about your experiences!

"Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates."

Ahoy! Lea’e it t’ Mark Twain t’ know exactly what t’ say.

Fortunately, for we sorry landlubbers, thar’s a day each year when God – or, perhaps, Davey Barry – does permit us t’ be pirates. Tis’ International Talk Like a Pirate Day today – by far me fa’orite made-up holiday e’er.

Aye, me parrot concurs.

Arrr, so, t’ celebrate:

Get yer scurvy self t’ Facebook and change yer language t’ Pirate.


FBahoy  FBledger


Don yer striped stockings an’ three-cornered caps. Don’t you be wearin’ an eyepatch o’er yer deadlights if you’ll be needin’ depth perception, y’ addled swab.

TLAP working pirate

Don’t be forgetting yer mates – ev’ry seadog needs a friendly-type ear while on t’ account.


Fin’ly, be remembrin’ a few tips fer effecti’e swashbucklin:

  • Rape an’ pillage afore ye be burnin’.
  • Ne’er turn yer back on a drunken wench.
  • It’s when pirates count thar booty that they become mere thieves. (Thank ‘ee, Willie Bolitho.)

Eight Years

Eight years ago today, I was driving to class and had gotten about a mile down the road when I turned on the stereo, looking for some music to help wake me up. Instead, what I got sounded like someone was putting on a radio show – like War of the Worlds, only not as well-written. The DJs kept talking in hushed, panicked tones about something, about a plane crash, and making references to something that had happened earlier on the broadcast. Good radio-narration had gone out the window; they were forgetting to recap every few minutes for those of us who had just tuned in.

After a moment or two, my boyfriend and I realized that we were listening to something real and not a weird publicity stunt. A plane had crashed in the middle of New York City, and although it was hard to tell in the chaotic live coverage, it seemed that there might have been a second crash as well.

That was about the point in time when the third airplane hit. The DJs gasped. I heard them say that the Pentagon had been hit, and I knew that we were at war.

We pulled over at the first gas station we passed, and I bolted for the pay phone. I woke my parents up and told them to turn on the television. Then I called two other people: my best friend, who was enlisted in the Army National Guard, and my other best friend, who was male and draftable. I don’t remember getting through to either one of them. I don’t remember how many times I tried; Ryan – the second friend I mentioned – remembers getting something like 20 missed calls from me and from his mom that morning. (Proof positive that my husband can sleep through anything, I guess.)

(Thinking about it sends me right back to that pay phone. I can see the car parked two parking spots down from me, and the yellow glow of sunrise through decidedly un-ominous clouds. I can feel the cold clinch of fear and the itching desire to do something. It’s all sitting there on my mental TiVo, Do Not Delete. )

When we got to school, it was a ghost town. Practically every classroom had a sign on the door, cancelling class, directing students to the SUB. There was a television set up in every corner of the SUB, in every common area on campus. Everyone flocked. We got there just in time to watch news coverage break to a field in Pennsylvania, knowing only that a plane had crashed, not yet knowing the drama that had played out in the moments before. We watched the tiny polka-dots moving across the U.S. map: airplanes still aloft, every one a potential harbinger of destruction. You’d think that we wouldn’t be too scared, on a personal level, being in Boise, but we knew better. One of the country’s most important Air Force bases is just down the highway from Boise. Having grown up in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain, I’m all too aware of how apparently safe parts of the country can actually be top targets.

The university became a trauma center. My English professors spent the next several classes sharing particularly well-written accounts, or having us write our own. Flags sprouted like clover. ASBSU sent student leaders into the field with collection jars for the Red Cross. I took one to band and ended up with more coins than I could carry – I forget now how many hundreds of dollars Blue Thunder donated.

I don’t remember recruiters descending on campus or anything, but I doubt very much that I was the only person wondering about enlisting. I knew that they wouldn’t take me under normal circumstances – a person with my vision problems is a liability, not an asset – but these circumstances seemed far from normal. If everyone I knew was going to go to war, surely the military could find something I could do.

In retrospect, I wonder where all of us would be today if that hadn’t happened. It’s an utterly inconsequential part of the big equation, but I kind of doubt that the chapter would have made it. We rode a wave of patriotic duty and service that year, bonding over bitter cold flag ceremonies in the corner of the stadium after discovering that the stadium flag was languishing in a wadded up garbage bag except on game days. Most of us couldn’t serve our country in a traditional sense, so we threw ourselves into serving our little community of band people. Heck, our football team won their game on September 22, 2001, starting a 31-game home winning streak. I’m not going to pretend that glory and vengeance and sheer physical catharsis wasn’t on their minds that day.

Where our country, or our world, would be… it’s hard to imagine. I can’t fathom what these eight years must have been like for Americans of Middle Eastern ancestry. Constitutional rights have been altered. Our thoughts about what celebrities should and should not say have changed. The price of gas, and the cost of war, have contributed to one of the worst economic situations our country has seen. Without 9/11, Bush likely would have served only one term – how would our country be different if another person had been at the wheel these past four years? September 11 cut a deep swath through global history. For better and worse, it’s pivotal to today.

It’s hard to believe that my students were seven years old on 9/11/01. That morning, they would have been safely tucked away in a first grade classroom. If their teachers knew, they found out by a phone call to the classroom, or maybe someone poking their head into the room. Maybe an email went out from the office. Maybe school got released early; I’m sure plenty of parents came and brought their babies home. Did their parents try to explain what was going on? Could they have possibly understood? How many of them had to say good-bye to a parent or sibling when their country called them overseas?

These kids are about to be adults in a world that exists, in its current form, because of 9/11 – and they can’t even remember it having happened. Now I know what it feels like to be old, to be a parent. The things that made my world are ancient history to the people who now inhabit it.

I still think this is the best possible memorial they could build.

I still think this is the best possible memorial they could build.

Five Fantastic Facts About MY MOMMY

1. She’s my auxiliary brain – the person who always knows the right thing to do, who remembers what I forget, and who never runs out of good ideas.

2. When she’s sitting above me on the boat, and the sun is setting behind her, she looks like Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen.

3. She’s the best photographer I know. No fuss, no fancy gadgets – just right to the heart of the picture.

4. Life has thrown her down N times, but she’s gotten up N+1 times, even when it seemed pretty dang impossible.

5. She loves life and doing things and being silly – hot air balloons, pirate costumes, trips with no itinerary, toys at Christmastime.

Bonus Fact:
Best Mom ever.

Happy birthday!!! I love you. 🙂

A Reminder: Why I Should Create

Sometimes, you don’t need to come up with your own blog post. Sometimes, you just need to get caught up on your John Green videos. (Hopefully my embed kung fu is strong, and this video will start at the 51 second mark. If not, that’s where the clip’s pertinent bits begin.)

And if you’re not in video-watching mode, here’s the most pertinent of the pertinent bits: we should do things “not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.” That’s Faulkner, quoted by John, and now quoted by me, which I think may cancel out the entire sentence so that it will have never been spoken.

Hey, here’s something another writer said in his memoirs:

The closest thing to poetry is a loaf of bread or a ceramic dish or a piece of wood lovingly carved, even if by clumsy hands. – Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize-winning poet

If I’m going to write, it should be to create something for someone. Stop worrying about end results. Stop worrying if so-and-so will like it – write it because I like it, and write it for the people who like it as well.

Being too busy to be creative…

…makes my creative side wake up. I’ve got about a dozen different writing projects I’d like to be doing right about now, plus I’m itching to finally get an Etsy shop set up for my sister (and maybe me, too, if she’ll take on a less artistic partner).

I’m trying to focus, trying to behave. Even artists have to have discipline, right?

I’ve been writing a novel. The ambitious part of me would like to interject and say that I’m actually writing a series of novels, but since I’ve only managed 23,000 words of the first book, I think that’s a bit premature. The problem is that I’m not getting it done. I was going gangbusters for a few months, but it took me four months to get from chapter 12 to chapter 13, and I haven’t written a word since July. I knew that follow-through might be a problem, so I’d been posting each chapter on an online community. Some amazing people were reading my story, leaving some good comments, and – most importantly – urging me forward when I stopped writing. Unfortunately, the nature of the online community made it all too easy for me to ignore – so I decided to step up the game. (And hopefully, in the process, I won’t lose the readers I’ve already been so fortunate to gain.)

All fourteen chapters of my novel, which is called (at this point) Wyrd, are now posted on this blog. I imported them from the original date posted, so they’re kind of spread out. There’s a navigable table of contents here. Additionally, it’s password protected, in a weak attempt to protect copyright (should that ever become an issue). If you ask, I’ll give you the password. And hopefully, it will come in handy, because I’ll start writing again.

I don’t know if it’s any good. I only know that the people who have been reading claim to enjoy it from time to time – and that I want to know what happens next, which seems like it should be a good sign.

The story begins here. Please let me know what you think – feedback is what maintains my forward progress.