Tuesday, 24 January 2017

What did you do with all the Colour?

When I left a Masters degree in Dublin to move to the wilds of Donegal I had no idea what life had in store for me. I was open and ready for something completely new.

Living in a rural coastal community, I soon learned that there were some ways of being I would have to leave behind. I noticed how my neighbours winced when I was harsh or opinionated. I watched them lose all interest in talking to me when I was telling them how things were. 

Observing their response I began to realise how my own open soul had been covered up by the intellectual and often defensive culture I was born into. I was so full of opinions there was no room to notice the things of value right infront of me. In this world of frantic thought, feelings were weak and silly.

I learned from these new people how to be soft and calm down. I remembered how to not manage a conversation, but let it be a mutual exploration into unknown territory. Most of all I learned how to relax.

That first year I lived by the sea I decided to put together a series of photographs of the area for an exhibition. I called it Wild Calm or Fásach and tSuaimhneas. I wanted to express this calmness that wasn't repressed, as many might think, but which was simply open and full of possibility. I wanted to do my best to capture the new way of being in the world that was healing me on a very deep level.

I walked, took pictures and slept, and didn't socialise much. I was only really interested in enjoying the calm.

I was given a little ginger kitten and called her Sooki. She came everywhere with me and I took lots of photos of her. She was a sweet and gentle little person.

Local children would call in for a visit from time to time. One summers day a little boy threw down his bike outside and ran into the house. He walked over to a table where a photo of Sooki was proudly sitting. In it she looked like a black and white tiger with stripes perfectly defined. 

This little boy picked up the picture, looked closely, scrunched up his face and said, 'What did you do with all the colour?'. He promptly discarded the photo and walked out, much displeased.

It became an amusing anecdote, yet always at the back of my mind I knew his reaction was important. As kids we often watched black and white films on TV, and we did at one stage think that there was a time when life was black and white. We wondered how it was to live in a world without colour, until it was explained that such a world never existed. The films had no colour because the technology just wasn't able for it.

Since the beginning of this new year I have been, one by one, colouring hundreds of drawings I made over the years. This is something I have wanted to do for a long, long time but couldn't. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn't find the energy to finish them off. I was blocked, so they remained shells, skeletons, foundations of something yet to come.

It has been joyful and calming to colour these drawings and share them with others. I realised the reason I couldn't finish them was because I didn't have the confidence back then to do so. I wasn't ready to come into the light of day in that way. Colour was a representation of my confidence, my emotional world, and my life force, and it was simply too weak to be exposed.

The 1949 film version of The Secret Garden begins in black and white then turns into technicolour as the little girl finally finds her way into the long yearned for secret garden. Watching it as a child in the eighties the colour sequence blew me away. I can only imagine the effect it had when it first came out, on people only used to seeing black and white movies. To suddenly be presented with the world in all its glorious colour on the big screen must have been very moving.

This is kind of how I feel these days. My life has gone technicolour and I can hardly believe it. My inner technology has finally caught up with the real world. The world of thought, of ideas, is married to the wild calm of emotion.

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