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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Synaesthesia at 7:00 a.m.

Who needs to read the absurdities of "Overheard in New York"? Just crawl out of bed...

Scene: The Breakfast Table
Time: Before the Hour of Sense

N, age 8: I know what the last number of the alphabet is.

Me, groggy, drinking tea: I should hope so.

N: 60.

Me: How do you get that?

N: Because there are 60 seconds in a minute, and there are 60 minutes in an hour.


Mtm: There are 24 letters in the alphabet--

N: There are 27 letters in the Spanish alphabet. There are 26 letters in the alphabet.

Mtm: Oh, you're right. There are 24 in the runic alphabet. In the Nordic [Elder] Futhark.

[Various exchanges, possibly fabulous, about the nature of the Spanish alphabet, between N and Mtm.]

N, intense: What color do you think the letter Y is?

Me, groggy but firm, an enormous yellow Y blossoming in my mind: Yellow!

N, with pleasure: That's right.

* * * * * * *
Me: How do you spell Futhark?

Image source: royalty free photograph by wasaby, "Vacuum,"


  1. I need a vacation in Africa.

  2. Y is pale green. Everyone knows that.


  3. Oh, how I loved reading that conversation! I miss those silly 8 year old days. I, of course, being the cynic I am, read 'possibly fatuous' but it is ' possibly fabulous' instead. Of course, it would be!
    I'm going to have make a list on my blog for writers' links. I just know it.

  4. P,

    I am quite sure you are Phil (PLW-Phil, that is!) because I am quite sure that you would see Y as pale green.

    P is sky blue, with no clouds.



    Yes, the humor of seeing someone navigate the world on insufficient information is so much fun! When it's fun, that is.

    Fatuous. I'm sure my breakfast table is capable of the foolish and inane. Works for me.

    You've been on the Palace roster for a a while... Under the Forgotten-adjective Gallery.

    For that matter, P used to be, until he jettisoned his blog. Wise man. Unless that's a different P, of course.


    Why Africa for N?

    Dunno. He was looking at the brand new issue of National Geographic. On the cover are scantily-clad men with bows and arrows and light spears, crossing flat, hot ground. Maybe that was it.

  5. Marly,

    The conversation about color and letters sparked my interest. Have you heard of people who are sentists?-sp?

    They do associate color with letters, certain words have colors as well. Sometimes they even have "taste" associated with them. There has been a whole field of study on this. My eldest claims she sees certain colors with letters and sounds. She is a poet/writer as well, so maybe there is something to that vein. But I assure you it is a field science is studying.

  6. Oh, yes--synaesthesia is a curious ailment. And I think that writers have long mixed up the senses to good effect. Interesting about your daughter!

    If you look at, you can find the title story to Jeffrey Ford's upcoming book, The Empire of Ice Cream. It depends on synaesthesia.

    Here's the opening paragraph:

    "Are you familiar with the scent of extinguished birthday candles? For me, their aroma is superceded by a sound like the drawing of a bow across the bass string of a violin. This note carries all of the melancholic joy I have been told the scent engenders—the loss of another year, the promise of accrued wisdom. Likewise, the notes of an acoustic guitar appear before my eyes as a golden rain, falling from a height just above my head only to vanish at the level of my solar plexus. There is a certain imported Swiss cheese I am fond of that is all triangles, whereas the feel of silk against my fingers rests on my tongue with the flavor and consistency of lemon meringue. These perceptions are not merely thoughts, but concrete physical experiences. Depending upon how you see it, I, like approximately nine out of every million individuals, am either cursed or blessed with a condition known as synesthesia."

  7. What a wonderful early morning conversation. Makes me nostalgic (like laura) for those days with my first two. My youngest, with Down Syn., is more apt to talk to me about metaphysics or politics, in his fashion.

  8. Well, I liked what your youngest had to say in the graveyard (on one of your posts), so I imagine he has other interesting things to say...

    I cherish those child-pronouncements. All that early childhood wisdom and hilarity will be leaving in a few years, flowing along on the stream of life toward the land of adults.

    It reminds me of a Yeats poem, the narrator talking to a yellow-haired child and saying that he will miss her when she is "gone."

  9. Hi Marly,

    What a delightful novel using synaesthesia. The part about the notes of the music interested me greatly.

    We thought my dog had synaesthesia as well, for when we would play the stereo really loudly he "saw" notes. We could tell because he would snap at the air, as if to bite them out of the air. I wonder what they looked like to him? And although they say dogs can not see colors, I know he could, because whenever we passed something orange in the car he would whip his head toward the object. Never any other color, just orange. He particularly was enamored of the Department of Transportation orange color. I used to joke and say he had be a DOT worker in his former life. I guess he was the guy who painted all of the trucks orange.

  10. That is interesting--snapping notes out of the air.

    Our dog had a fight with a coyote today... Doesn't seem to bother anybody but me, but I'm picturing us all stiff and foamy. Foamy first, stiff later. The perils of imagination. Or worse.

  11. Coyote? Do you live in the wild?

  12. No, not exactly.

    My husband, man of multifarious interests, hunts. (We have a world-famous butcher--think of that! never knew there was such a thing--in our area, and there are all sorts of arcane venison concoctions in the freezer. Ducks, grouse, geese: none of them are safe from being roasted or converted to sausage.)

    When I ferry children to out-of-town classes in the evening, it's hard work to avoid hitting a deer (and even, once, a coyote.) At times the local golf courses are one big down carpet.

    But I think the wild is moving right into villages. A rabid fox ran amuck last year, just a block from my house. And I saw a dozen deer crossing the bridge to go to church on Epiphany a year back. (Tasty cherry trees.) Until the dog arrived and a fence went up, we had three mallards who would waddle down the sidewalk, scoot into the neighbors' driveway, and pop into our yard for a visit.

  13. Coyotes! oh my! There ia a band of wild cats roaming my neighborhood, and sadly, the squirrel population has dropped steeply. The squirrels used to hang upside down by one foot in an attempt to reach our bird feeder, but now spend their time avoiding sharp claws...

    Was going to say something on synaesthesia, forgot while rambling about coyotes and cats, never mind me. I'm just a lost cyber-wanderer.

  14. Lost, maybe.

    Found, also: you're here.

    Though I'm like the Caterpillar meeting Alice--don't quite see you clearly.

    Long ago, I remember my father electrifying a post feeder... Made the squirrels jumpjumpjump, all bristly.

  15. Your comment made me laugh, chuckle and chortle out loud, causing my dignified cat Lyra to look at me as if I was raving. I can just imagine her thinking: Why is the other occupant of my territory laughing at that box? Anyway, back to your comment- I could just imagine squirrels jumpjumpjumping all over the place like popcorn. Thanks for shedding a little light on my day, Marly.

  16. I'm big on humorous cats. Theodora spends every light hour chasing rainbows. Lady Azure sits on a pillow waiting for me to comb out her lovely blue fur. Alas, I said "yes" to a cat that must be bathed once a week and combed--or else she turns into a mass of little dreadlocks.

    And right now she is a terrific M.O.L.D.

  17. Cats! Those wonderful and occasionally haughty little creatures! I could say so much more, but Lyria is demanding attention. Hope your M.O.L.D. unsnarls.

  18. Was it Lyra (Pullman?) or Lyria (a musical yowler, a lyrical cat?)

    I am contemplating shaving the cat. It has gone that far...

  19. Her name is Lyria, although I once had a tabby named Pantalaimon after the Pullman character.

    Don't shave your cat! The second she puts one dainty paw outdoors, she'll turn into an icicle! (Just a guess, though.)

  20. She really is a floppy blue cat; she is only one step removed from a cuddly stuffed toy. Alas, the step consists of blue Persian dreadlocks, constant need for combing, runny eyes, and a refusal to deposit solid packages in the box. She would not dream of going outside. She rarely even dreams of going downstairs.

    The above is deserving of the globby, boggy name of BLOG.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.