Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visual Thinker

It should be no surprise that I like words. With as much as I talk, I'd better. Vocabulary has always been a fascinating subject to me. I was one of those kids who read the dictionary. Not for very long, because I'd get distracted thinking of how to use all those words.

However, I never really mastered the pronunciation key. I liked the look of the word, and sort of just let my brain fill in the sounds, which is unreliable at best. Hence, I will still often say "miss-chee-vee-ous" instead of mischievous. Same with grievous. I'm especially bad with names in novels. My love of reading will let me create fantastic worlds in my mind with the information on the page, and then leave me incomprehensible when trying to talk to other people about books that we've both read.
The Wheel of Time series is perhaps the worst for me in that respect, because the outlandish names that my eyes sort of gloss over, make their impression and recognize and never really transmit a pronunciation to my brain. When I'm reading, I don't need the sounds of the words, just the look is enough to let my visual brain continue along. Then when I try to talk about characters, I realize that I don't actually know all the letters and in what order enough to form a pronunciation. I just sort of go with what I recognize from the page, and make up the rest. Hence "Moghedien" becomes "Mogidishu" and "Nynaeve" is "Nin...Nyn... Ninavee... Nynnyeve... you know, the cranky Wisdom."

All of that is to get around to the fact that my brain is always trying to put words to the things I see, and images to the things I read. Whether or not I know how to pronounce any of those words is another matter entirely.

I started thinking about this a couple of nights ago in the bath (where lots of good thinking happens) when I squeezed out some shampoo. It looked like a slug for about a quarter of a second before it spread out and looked more like shampoo again. So there I was, thinking about a graceful way to describe the pearly white slugness of my shampoo... for what purpose, I have no idea. I just was. It wasn't sluggish* in a revolting way, it was sluggish in a very neutral way. But why would I waste time and thoughts trying to describe something as fleeting and inconsequential as the shampoo I'd just squeezed? I don't know, but I realized then that I do this all the time.

Last night, on the drive home, I thought the sunset looked soft. Like melting butter. I thought about that for a while as I drove, wondering if I should call my sky-watch buddies to tell them the sky was cool looking, but then I got distracted by an inconsistency in the sky. Of course, skies aren't really consistent in any meaningful way generally, but let me see if I can explain. The sunset was behind me, all melted-butter like. No harsh edges of clouds or streaks of color, just... soft... like watercolors. There, that's probably better than the butter image, but not as much fun or textural. Anyway, the sky in front of me was mostly blue. I could see to either side the trailers of pink where the sunset was sort of wrapping around the skyline, like giving the world a hug. It was a pretty blue too. Not quite Wedgewood blue, but not baby blue either. Then, off to my left, in a firmly blue portion of the sky was some pink. Now, what was hard to describe is the kind of pink it was. Not the color (which was pretty much just your typical pale, baby pink), but the shape and consistency of this bit of pink stuck in the blue, where it very much didn't belong. It wasn't connected to any of the trailers of pink. It was disconnected. Floating in the blue part. Weird.

So, it wasn't a splash of pink, because it was softer than that. Soft like the sunset. Like watercolors or butter, but softer even. Not a smear either because a smear has too much action in it. It implies brisk, forceful movement, and there was none of that. It wasn't wispy, which is sort of a stringy softness. This was round, even though it was mostly a horizontal stripe. It wasn't really puffy either because that conjures three-dimensional roundness and it wasn't that either. Sort of a smudge, but a really well rubbed in smudge. Like a well blended smudge... like a blush I suppose. A natural blush... well, not like my natural blushes which tend to be sort of obnoxiously pink and splotchy. But like an airbrushed cover model's blush--soft and delicate. The cover model for a bridal magazine, not some haute couture runway nonsense.

Alright, so that's almost a hundred and fifty words to describe something that maybe no one else saw or gave two thoughts about and was gone before I could put the words to it. That's a snapshot of what goes on in my brain on your average day.

I've had this one descriptor in my mind for almost 10 years now that I can't quite get the words right for. I saw a sunrise on a plane, and the sun looked like the yolk of an egg running out on the clouds, only the yolk wasn't egg-colored. It was that particular shade of hot pink that I associate with little old ladies in Florida who are probably somebody's grandma but wear visors and golf and drink Vodka tonic like my grandmothers would never do. Not Flora pink, though I didn't know Flora pink at the time. Harsher, which is possible, so stop rolling your eyes. The kind of pink that's screaming to be youthful even though it's obvious that such a color never existed in youth or nature. Anyway, someday I'll get that description right in less than 100 words. And then I'll use it... somewhere... when I write something that needs just such a sunrise.

*Oddly, sluggish being an actual word meaning slow or lethargic, not what I meant, which was "like a slug"

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