Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blog To Blog

I am relatively new to blogging - both writing and reading. Therefore, I have not yet added to my page a list of the other blogs that I read. I read several. Their topics range from knitting to farm life. Though I was a bit skeptical when I began writing my own blog, I now realize that there is much to be learned by wandering around in the community of bloggers. I feel good when I read some one's post that makes me think, that challenges me to look at myself and the world with new eyes.

One such blog is written by a friend and fellow knitter, Lynn H. I met Lynn when she was a teacher and I was a student at last year's DFW Fiberfest. Since our meeting last April, I have been a faithful reader of her blog, and she of mine. Lynn is celebrating five years of blogging. As part of this celebration, she is posing questions to her readers and encouraging us to comment. Lynn's blog's name is Colorjoy! In her post today, Lynn asks what does colorjoy say to you. What word or song or piece of art reflects your personal understanding of the word colorjoy.

I did post a comment on her blog, but I also recalled an article that I wrote a year or so ago that was published in Spirit of Knitting. It does not address Lynn's question directly though it does express some of my views about color. It is too long to post as a comment on someone else's blog so I am posting it here. Those of you who subscribe to Spirit of Knitting need not read any further. This falls into the category of rerun; it was written in the spring of 2006.

As I sit down to write, it is a beautiful almost spring morning in Texas—March 2nd to be exact. I have just finished my morning prayers, which included a meditation from my favorite book of daily reflections, The Old Hermit’s Almanac, by Edward Hays, a most witty and thought-provoking writer. He reminded me that today is the birthday (in fact the 100th birthday) of someone who has had a profound impact on me throughout my life – Theodore Geisel, better known to us as Dr. Seuss. The words penned by Dr. Seuss were the first that I read by myself, and today, some forty plus years later, I still rely on Seuss as a learning tool both personally and in the classroom.

In today’s reflection, Hays focuses on the creativity and determination exhibited by Theodore Geisel. It is hard for those of us who grew up with the Cat in the Hat, Horton, Yertle the Turtle, and Sam I Am to believe that Dr. Seuss’ first offering to the literary world was rejected by not one or two but twenty-seven different publishers before someone was willing to take a chance on Seuss’ style of creativity, which he calls “logical insanity.” We all crave logical insanity, those moments when our inner child is playing hard and having fun.

When was the last time that you read a book by Dr. Seuss? Not read one of these books to someone, but read it for yourself? Next time you are visiting your local library or bookseller, pick one up and read it. It will take a few minutes to read and a lifetime to digest. The book you choose really doesn’t matter; any of Seuss’ whimsical characters and zany adventures will carry you to that place where “logical insanity” is abundant. Lurking on the pages of every book are life lessons that we are never too old to be taught and re-taught. If more people thought that Horton the Elephant’s words, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” were true, this place we live would be much more tolerable –or is that tolerant? Consider how we, all at one time or another, have been forced to look at life through the eyes of a “small” person. And if we are lucky, we have been in Horton’s shoes and had the opportunity to be a positive influence in the life of someone who is feeling small. Whatever your perspective right now, Seuss and his characters nurture and challenge us all to be the best that we can, wherever we find ourselves.

One of Geisel’s most recent books is My Many Colored Days (© 1996). Although he text for this book was written in 1973, his words waited until a great color artist who, as Seuss says, “ would not be dominated by me,” could be found. Geisel hoped that such an artist could bring “a new art style and pattern of thinking” to his words. His vision was realized, almost twenty five years after he wrote the words, by artists Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. You may recall that the illustrations in earlier books—which were done by Geisel—are line drawings embellished with washed out primary colors. This is not a criticism; it is simply an observation. Why did Geisel feel that My Many Colored Days demanded a broader use of color? Why did he feel that this book needed to depart from what is so clearly the Seussian style? Color has profound effects on us both consciously and subconsciously. Seuss was keenly aware that a book that addressed the colors of moods and feelings begged for illustrations whose colors were as broad and as intense as the emotions themselves.

Whether we like to admit it or not, color has a great influence on how we perceive many things in our world. Bad guys wear black; people who drive red or black cars live on the wild side; boy babies wear blue and girl babies wear pink (how else will we know what they are?); doctors and brides wear white. All of these associations bring forth in us attitudes, opinions—and unfortunately prejudices—that arise purely from our perceptions of color.

We are also manipulated by color. Have you noticed how many foods are packaged in green? When the first “healthy” pre-packaged foods found their way to grocery store shelves, many were in green boxes. Now that we are imprinted with this association, foods that are anything but healthy are also packaged in green. Companies that market these items bank on the fact that we can be conditioned by color associations and that we don’t read the labels. Here is another example: next time you eat at a restaurant, take note of its d├ęcor. Bright colors, particularly red, are prominent. Bright colors generate energy in us causing us to eat quickly. The faster we eat, the faster we leave so another party can have our table. Color translates to money in the dining business.

We all have a favorite color (or colors). Mine happen to be blue and orange. Yes, sometimes together. It is not as strange as you might think. These two are complimentary colors on the color wheel. I have been drawn to orange and blue for as long as I can remember. It probably goes without saying that my yarn stash abounds with shades of blue from baby to electric and orange from burnt to neon. I love them all. I have even found some hanks of variegated yarn with both blue and orange. Somewhere out there I have a soul mate with a dye pot! The stash closet also holds yarn that is definitely not me. You know the stuff; coming across it later your reaction is, “What was I thinking?” Most of the time this thought pops in and out of our head as quickly as the yarn is tossed into the “donate to charity” bag. Is it possible that we do ourselves a disservice by not taking that “what was I thinking” question seriously?

Why did I buy those ten skeins of hot pink wool? I am definitely not a pink person! Where did I buy the yarn? Who was I with? What was happening in my life at the time? Dr. Seuss says, “when my days are happy pink it is great to jump and just not think.” So there’s the answer--I wasn’t thinking. On a serious note, I need to ask myself was I really happy when I bought the yarn that now I can barely look at? Or, was I trying to make myself happy because it was really a brown day when I felt “slow and low, low down?” Everything we knit has a story. Each of these stories becomes a chapter in the book that is our life. What do these chapters reveal about where I’ve been and where I am now? What do they say about who I was and who I am now?

There is no doubt in my mind that my eyes (and my heart) will always gravitate toward the blues and oranges that call to me from their nests on the yarn shop shelves, but I am learning to give a bit more credence to that little voice that sometimes says “this is not you at all but I really like it (today).” Buy it. Make something with it. Even if on this day it has lost its appeal. If you really have no affinity for the yarn, find a friend who will knit something with it for you. If you are still puzzled by your reason for buying that yarn, take the finished project and tuck it away in a safe place. A day may come when you say, “that yarn is not so bad. In fact, I kind of like it.”

If you have nothing like this in your stash, set out to deliberately make something with a color that lies outside of your normal comfort zone. What color or colors would you choose? Or, take the challenge further. What can you do to make your creation say something about who you are without relying on its color?

Given a choice, I will always choose bright colors. I shy away from anything in what I call “mud” or “business blahs.” Having said that, one of my favorite pieces that I have made in the last year is a shawl in a variegated yarn in subdued southwest colors. Though I bought the yarn in Texas, I finished the shawl while vacationing in the New Mexico mountains. As I glanced from my knitting to the landscape that enveloped me, the yarn and the land became one. The colors blended together like the paint on a fine artist’s canvas. At that moment, this shawl became the next chapter in my book. Though at the time I thought this chapter was complete, it was not. It took a sad turn. The pattern that I used for the shawl was designed by a local Dallas knitter and teacher. She passed away, after a courageous battle with cancer, shortly after I finished my shawl. What began as a ho-hum project has now become a piece that represents significant moments in my life. Suddenly, all of its subdued colors glow with a brightness that I could not see at first.

Simply stated, we all need to put a little more trust in that small voice that is so easy to ignore. When it whispers, in a gentle attempt to nudge us to try something new or different, listen! Pleasant surprises await those who dare to take the leap toward “logical insanity.”

Though this essay focuses on yarn (because it was written for a knitting publication), here yarn color is simply a place holder for all those things that reside neatly "inside the box". Consider listening to a different kind of music, reading a new author, trying a new kind of food, making a new fashion statement; the possibilities, and the colors you'll experoence, are endless.

And, if you haven't already done so, visit Colorjoy!