The Colour of Memory

The Colour of Memory
Modern life is destroying colour in a kind of genocide, a universal clearance of the natural spirit of tone, shade, tint and hue. So it appears to me in retrospect.
The following lines by A E Houseman encompass the notion that for each of us, memory has its own presiding colour. For him, blue represented a time, an age to which he could never return.
INTO my heart on air that kills

  From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

  What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

  And cannot come again.
For me it is colour in its very being. As I have already ventured, I became a putative Zen Buddhist in its early adolescent form though without any such label. The brief vignette in an earlier post in this series recounted the rhapsodic nature of being in a lilac tree or the extraordinarily vibrant flashes of blue and yellow in corn fields that were not yet annually brutalized by spraying. Those were the days when a farmer or gardener fought cunning battles with predators, with their blood constantly on his hands, and had a kind of grudging respect for his foes, even though today we might regard the strung up carcasses of birds and animals to deter further predation, primitive and inhuman. We now prefer mechanised killing on a grand scale from planes, from tractors and from genetic laboratories and have a growing population of city estate children with no knowledge of where eggs or milk or the beef in burgers come from, or of nettles and thorns or wild fruit and fungi. No, those playful days provided arrays of colour in the hedgerows, meadows and cultivated fields that burn in the mind’s eye.
Nothing since compares in my mind to the spectacular spectrum of colours to be found in birds’ eggs, their positioning next to each other in cardboard containers lined with cotton wool. If a rainbow had been constituted from the colours to be found in my box, it would have stretched right across the sky. I suspect that in those immediate, post-war British days where the range of paint was limited in houses, where products in ironmongers and department stores were similarly lacking in much beyond magnolia, green and brown, when fathers wore dun and grey utility attire and women had not cultivated the seeds of fashionable independence, eggs were a wonder. They were a child’s stained glass windows affording a view of the spiritual essence of existence. Since then industrialisation and mass production have led us to a point where we cannot pick wild flowers without guilt and where more and more flora and fauna are necessarily added to the lists of the protected. It is said that 96% of all species that have ever existed have become extinct. In my own private lifetime with its unique visual history, it is the bleaching and extinction of so much colour, wild, savage and limitless that causes the pang of loss. It is as if, as I age, Death, the robber, has begun to visit early to begin pilfering my sensibilities from me.  
He is particularly keen on colour.

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