I have a special place in my heart for Valentine’s Day, which has nothing to do with chocolate, flowers, or the other holiday tropes. Don’t get me wrong…I love chocolate, and almost always have a stash with me; this week, it’s Chocolove’s 55% dark with orange peel. And, I adore flowers; I have a sweet bouquet of red roses next to me as a write, a gift from my sweetheart Timothy. But what I love most about Valentine’s Day is something I call “synesthetic correspondence”.
I don’t know if there’s another name for the concept, but I know my appreciation for synesthetic correspondence has been with me pretty much forever. For example, I had a wonderful Jack Russell Terrier for 18 years, She was the doggy love of my life and I named her Io, after the Greek myth. In the Io narrative, a servant girl incurs the wrath of Hera and is turned into a solid white calf. My JRT was almost entirely white, and so Io was the perfect name for her, not only because she reminded me of the myth, but also because “Io” is a perfectly white word. It’s common for grapheme->color synesthetes to have either black or white vowels, and in my case, my “I”s and “O”s are both white. So my dog Io represented a synesthetic correspondence, where the named thing matches the color of the word.
This correspondence happens for me less often than one would think. I often get quite the opposite: the word “blue” is actually berry red, the word “white” is burgundy, and Halloween, the season of orange and black appears bright chartreuse for me, tinged green by the color of the letter “H”.
While the word “Valentine” is is a weird medium green in my lexeme->color world, February 14th is all about warm and rosy colored “romantic love”. As I told painter Christian Hook when we were filming a Sky TV documentary about his work, “love is the color of a sunset”. The word “love” is an otherworldly pink-meets-orange, like the blush on an apricot, or a padparadscha sapphire, my favorite gemstone. While many of the decorations for Valentines Day are red, as are the roses so often gifted, the concept of love, paired with the orangish tint of the number 14, and the delicate pinks that are part of the holiday color scheme all together foster a synesthetic correspondence that makes this day feel really wonderful.
Happy Valentine’s Day! May today bring you the pinkish orange warmth of the setting sun…