When you’re a kid, you don’t realize that the way you see the world isn’t the way everybody sees the world. Most of my realizations about my particular perceptions occurred when I was in college, like they do for most people. Some things, you don’t realize for a long time.

Being married certainly challenges the perception; “why would you do X in that way?” or “I thought Y belonged over there”. You start really considering the origins of your thought patterns, and taking a long hard look at where some of this shit comes from.

So it came as a surprise to me that Tim didn’t see the days of the week in color.

Or see numbers in color.

Or connect numbers and letters, as if they were two parts of the same three-dimensional item.

Or connect colors and key signatures.

He was flabbergasted when I told him that Wednesday is orange, which came up for some reason I can’t remember. Maybe I was putting together a calendar and had very specific ideas about what colors it could be. That certainly happened. But what ensued was a conversation that continues, off and on, about our perceptions of things, literally the way our brain envisions things our other senses take in.

I would say something about something smelling “green” and he thought I was nuts.

I told him the letters in my name had numerical equivalents (not related to numerology, just…how I saw it), and he had no way of understanding what I said.

It’s possible this is all a result of the active brain of a child who spent hour after hour in books, long afternoons by herself in the woods. But as an adult, I’ve learned there is a name for this, which doesn’t particularly concern me much except that it helps me to know that there are other people like this.

The word is “synethesia”, and it meansĀ “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” For me, it seems to mean that my senses are crisscrossed, intermingled, mis-wired. Or double wired. I’m not sure why the days of the week have a color, or what “sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body” got stimulated by what other “sense or part of the body” to create that profound belief. Why is June light green? Why is January blue?

Why are numbers related to letters?

I’ve got a friend who marvels at this sense, because he doesn’t have it and he finds it fascinating. I’ve seen articles extolling this skewed perception, but I don’t know why. I mean, this is just how the world looks to me.

For example, this perfectly orderly row of rainbow colors, my daily vitamin container, would satisfy most people in its predictable beauty.


but it bothers me because those aren’t the right colors for the days of the week.

This is what it SHOULD look like, according to my brain. Sunday is on top. Tuesday is (obviously) blue.


I don’t consider this blending of senses to be superior to anyone else’s. I do suspect it has interfered with my interpersonal relationships. When a person who doesn’t have synethesia hears me say something about the week having a certain shape, it might be weird. It might impede their ability to create a bond with me.

I’m sure this particular oddness has led to me feeling separate from the world. I mean, there are other reasons, for sure, but this is definitely one of them.

Tim has been gracious (if not enthusiastic) about this particular quirk in my personality. He is, as we’ve discussed, a rather linear person, so this kind of thing would drive him bonkers. I also suspect this perception of numbers/letters/colors is part of why math has never made sense to me, and why, as an adult, I so stubbornly refuse to be shamed for not being “good” at math.

Until the world starts shaming linear people for not being “good” at poetry, that dog won’t hunt. That’s such a limiting attitude, I won’t accept it.

While this sense is still new to me, I love what it brings to my life. I love feeling the colors of the forest, and hearing music in words. It’s a rich place inside my head, inviting and enjoyable. I don’t rank it higher than any other person’s perception, but I am happy that it’s mine.

My sister has this too, and we’ve had fun comparing notes on what things “are”. I’ve talked to a couple of her kids, who see things this way. Strangely, I have never talked to my own kids about this (or if I have, I forgot about it. Sorry, kids.) Rimsky-Korsakov also saw notes and key signatures in color, which I learned at the CSO’s “Behind the Score” production of Scheherezade. He said the key of E Major is royal blue. That’s exactly what it sounds like to me.

So. If you were wondering why I write the way I do about the different way I see things, this is a big reason why.

My rods and cones and ear drums and spatial sensory equipment have banded together and created a kaleidoscope in my brain.

If this is how you think too, I hope you’ll leave me a note. It’s nice to feel like you’re not alone.

One thought on “Kaleidscope

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  1. I wish I had this fantastic sense of color. I see words as shaped clouds. When I get to the place in the (infernal frustrating) verbal sentence where the noun (always the absent noun) disappears and I can not utter it, I ‘see’ the shape of it’s absence hanging there like a hole in the sky. And I can hear the musicality of the word, but can not say it. It becomes an awkward game of charades for my husband. ‘It has three syllables. The last one gets the emphasis. The notes go up. B. C. E. It sounds like da du dum. The second syllable starts with a pokey down letter. J? Or ‘y’ maybe? No. I think it is a ‘P!’ And the last letter is a ‘T’. I can see the cross bar sticking out at the end.’

    It drives him mad. I try not to engage him in my hunt, but some moments I desperately need the help to get the noun to come backs and fill in the hole.

    This is not age related. I have always had the hover nouns that play hide and seek leaving only their shapes and musical sound as clues.

    I don’t know if it is a condition shared by any other persons or if it is an effect of oxygen depravation from abuse in my childhood. I do know how much I would love to meet another hover nouner.

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