Friday, 18 January 2008
Green Eyed Monster
I once delivered a (political philosophy) essay in green ink. I had been suffering headaches and wondered if this was due to staring at my computer screen for hours on end. I had heard that green is gentler on the eyes than black. So I started using green for typing and editing but would change it back to black for the final print. This one time I forgot. When I got the essay back there were comments about it's hue: green is a sign of a certain kind of madness. The insanity of the non-logical. I got the impression that I was being told the essay would have been better had it not been green. My argument was skewed by colour. I find this very interesting indeed.
There's something about green. I especially like that green you sometimes find in the kitchens of stately homes open for visiting. I don't know what it's called, I only know it when I see it and I've never seen a plant that colour. Watercress soup can sometimes turn out something like it but I tend to think of it as pea green. I'd like it to be called cooking apple green. Sometimes I'll be arrested in a junk shop by a sighting: a fragment of paint on a rolling-pin handle or an old hand-whisk and will have to fight myself not to buy it.
My best friend has painted the inside of her house sage green. The first time she came to my house she couldn't believe the walls were white. She had been convinced they'd be green. Some time later, squiffy on Apple Martinis, she expressed her disappointment. And a long conversation ensued during which I explained that the wrong green would be worse than no green at all. I've never seen my perfect wall green on paint charts. A certain shade, that may exist only in my head, would look great in corduroy and if I ever find that exquisite combination I'll have my couch reupholstered in it. She understood. It's about matching the shade to the object: perfect green isn't constant it changes with environment, shape, even object use. A perfect green book would seem to be an entirely different hue to a perfect green coat though the tone would be within the same compass. Our conversation continues to this day and for Christmas she bought me a green handbag, I love it. I once filled an old tea-caddy with coils of new ribbon, several greens included, and gave it to her for her birthday. That was the most successful gift I've ever given. Our green understanding is one of the things that binds us.
Another friend, an artist, uses a lot of green in her work and dresses her children in green too when she finds one that works on them. She almost always gets it right in my subjective eyes. She is very dear to me. We speak the same language. I always know that if she wants to show me something it will be worth looking. She has introduced me to so many things: places, music, authors, you name it, that have resonated with me, given me that at home feeling. Some years ago she took me to a nine plot allotment near her house knowing it would fit me. The balance of the place was sublime: humanity and nature not just existing together but because of each other, made new by their relationship. Lipstick pink mop-head Dahlias rose above a tangle of Rocket, juicy orange Meconopses danced around drooping onion tops, scarlet Nasturtiums climbed up dense hedges of Box. Just like my green the secret is in the mix of art and nature, of human vision with a certain degree of toying. One day I hope to write about this allotment, a series of poems perhaps. I tried soon after that visit but I was too excited and realised I needed to wait for it to settle first. Meanwhile, I have in my room one of her paintings of it which I find myself staring at just about everyday. So I can expect her vision to flow into mine, but that won't be a bad thing it will be a measure of our correspondence. I could move into her house, change nothing, and feel as at home as I do in mine. Her garden furniture is painted green.
Once, on a writing course (Arvon) in deepest Yorkshire two mentions of green in my work drew the attention of one of the tutors. On the last day of my stay she pressed into my hand some sheaves of folded paper. A passion for green had caused her to write an essay about her search for an alluring shade that might not exist in the material world. This search took in a remote small town, in which she knew she'd been but couldn't quite place when or why or even how, where a remembered roadside café failed to surface; a 'canopy of oaks and kudzu', and a psychic who told her she would take up gardening. Sensing I shared her passion she had gone to look for the essay on the internet, found it, and printed it off for me. This was my first concrete experience of the extensive power of green. I have been drawn to a person who wears it or paints their house in it or whatever. But here just the mention of the word created a link between two people that didn't exist before. And of all the people I met on that course that tutor is the one I think of most. She is the one I'm most likely to search out, the one whose books I most want to get hold of. I know our sensibilities match. I saw this as she went through my work line by line but it was confirmed by green.
When I was a child I hated green sweets. I would choose pink and red first then eat the blue, the white the yellow. The green ones would sit in the bottom of the jar or bag. I couldn't eat them but I couldn't throw them away either.
Next semester I will have to write at least ten poems for submission to pass the course. So I've been reading about the writing of poetry. Richard Hugo says that good poetry is born of obsession. His seems to be place. Mine is relation. How to live comfortably without disturbing everyone else, or the planet, too much. Green fits the question. I don't know how or why so I've got a lot of exploratory work to do if I'm going to come up with anything. Maybe Rhona's house will come in to it, the allotment too and Sue's garden furniture, Marjorie's essay, my desk and the old enamelled hole punch I found on a wet Tuesday in an antique shop off the A75...
I wonder if green is considered the colour of insanity because people like me are drawn to it, or if I'm drawn to it because it is considered the colour of insanity.