(Sorry grey, I like you now! But you scared me back then)
September 13, 2016 9:33 AM   Subscribe

When I was a kid, I was legally blind due to the improper development of neurological connections as well as underdeveloped muscles. After a great doctor and a lot of work, I can see just fine now but for a while in my childhood, after a period of nothing, all I had was light and dark - this is how I remember family/friends describing colors to me.
posted by Etrigan (15 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Am I supposed to be seeing something here? I just get a spinner and a sidebar that has something about phone apps.
posted by Belostomatidae at 9:55 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

They did a disservice to grey. Concrete only looks grey. Grey feels like velvet and flannel and smells like dust from an ancient library. It sounds like the baseline of an orchestra from a great distance or the heavy silence after a thunderclap. Grey tastes like the fuzz on your tongue from sucking a cough drop or tea that has cooled just a little too much. It is a color full of secrets.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:57 AM on September 13, 2016 [44 favorites]

"Grey feels like velvet and flannel "

That's a vague mix of purple, burgundy, and maroon for me. Grey is concrete, and rain clouds, and static.
posted by I-baLL at 10:30 AM on September 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is a very pleasant thing to think about. Thank you for sharing it.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

According to Wikipedia:

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, grey was the color of undyed wool, and thus was the color most commonly worn by peasants and the poor. It was also the color worn by monks of the Franciscan order, Cistercian Order and the Capucine Order as a symbol of their vows of humility and poverty.

We think of it as a cold color now, perhaps because it is the color of technology and skies on grim days and bullets and dirty ice. But the meaning of color is often a product of the world it exists in, and there was a time when it was the color of the vast majority of humanity, and, for those that valued something other that ostentatious wealth, it was a honest, honorable color.
posted by maxsparber at 10:37 AM on September 13, 2016 [16 favorites]

If the internet isn't for small bits of life like this, then I don't know what the point of the web is.
posted by midmarch snowman at 10:38 AM on September 13, 2016 [13 favorites]

I held soft leaves and wet grass. They told me green felt like life. To this day it is still very much my favorite color.

For me, the smell of soil after rain feels like life. Fertile ground. Amazing, reassuring.
Thanks for posting the FPP.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 10:38 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Grey makes the other colours shine brighter. It's the reason why a florists shop seems to glow on a rainy day. Grey is the cheerleader for the other colours.
posted by dazed_one at 10:43 AM on September 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

Grey makes the other colours shine brighter. It's the reason why a florists shop seems to glow on a rainy day. Grey is the cheerleader for the other colours.

This is why the city of Seattle is never more beautiful than on a cloudy winter day. The grey skies bring out the green of the trees, the blue of the water, and the bright colors of the city.
posted by lunasol at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

These GIFs that show what it's like to be the various strands of color blind were interesting to see.
posted by msbutah at 11:11 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

> "These GIFs that show what it's like to be the various strands of color blind were interesting to see."

Hmm. Judging solely by those GIFs, I'd register as having both Blue-Weak/Tritanomaly and Green-Weak/Deteranomaly. At least those are the ones where the before and after look completely identical to me. I'm not entirely sure that's accurate, though. My color vision is considerably more messed up than that.
posted by kyrademon at 12:22 PM on September 13, 2016

I'd be super frustrated with these descriptions if I couldn't see, they mostly seem like madlibs: [NAME OF COLOR] feels like [NOUN THAT IS USUALLY THAT COLOR] and [OTHER NOUN THAT IS ALSO USUALLY THAT COLOR]
  • They told me that the heat I was feeling is red
  • they just told me that whenever you laugh so hard you can't stop, that that happiness is what yellow looks like
  • They told me green felt like life
  • They told me that that sensation I felt while swimming, that omnipresent coolness, that's blue. Blue feels like relaxation
  • They told me brown felt like earth, and like crunchy leaves or wilting flowers
  • That [grey] is a hard color, stern and with no personality
Seems much more evocative than Mad Libs to me.
posted by Lexica at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

The author was fortunate to have imaginative guides who tried to describe the indescribable. There is such lovely poetry in crafting language to suit the non-verbal.

Mr. Kinnakeet is red-green colorblind, and our discussions about color are, to me, fascinating and intriguing. It is obvious he sees differently than me but less clear just exactly what he does see. My attempts to describe a hillside full of autumn maples, for example, are met with extreme scepticism: "you say they are bright, but in what way?"

The one color we can agree on is yellow, specifically a soft buttery shade which we've used to paint our house. He insists it is the happiest color and I agree.
posted by kinnakeet at 1:27 PM on September 13, 2016

I remember a Modesty Blaise novel where one of the characters who was blind used a variety of metaphors to describe sounds and smells. I think Modesty's voice was like the flavour of whisky, her sidekick (Willie) smelt like a sax sounds, a villain's something was like a half-inflated balloon feels (which is just icky, isn't it?) It was how she identified the criminals at a party. Must have been smell. Modesty set it up so Diane could take credit for solving the crime and get the reward.

When I paint, I find myself trying to describe the colour I see so that I can mix it. Not all colours seem to have proper names, so when I see one of them, I'm not sure how to recreate it. Even colours that do have names, like taupe, how do you make taupe? Is it brown and black watered down, or should I throw some blue in? I was shocked when someone showed me the perfect Australian bush green by mixing black and yellow.

But grey ... grey can be cold and sad like the rainy day when you broke up with your first boyfriend and moved out to live by yourself to the sound track of Pink Floyd, or deep and warm and comforting like the old blanket you used for camping when you were a kid, or steely strong and hard like the metal of your sink, or nostalgic and rustic, like the paint job on your old ute (utility vehicle) that's had to stay out in the weather the last two and half years because your ratbastard ex's car is parked in your carport with a dead battery because your son is loyal.

Grey can be sweet like the colour of a loved one's eyes, or harsh like the walls of the hospital you were left alone in when you were a little kid, the youngest of 5 so nobody had the time to spend there with you, and the hospital was too tiny to have a ward sister for every ward, and you were well behaved anyway. Grey can be the feelings when the black dog's bite is getting vicious and you start losing your desire for things you loved to do, but you can still get up and go and do what you're expected to, without your eyes leaking, and your voice breaking.

I think maybe I prefer taupe.
posted by b33j at 6:01 PM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was married once. We painted the bedroom a warm gray, it had fog in the name and it was a very calm color. We fought less in the bedroom. Not enough less, but I love that shade of warm gray.
posted by theora55 at 5:42 PM on September 14, 2016

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