True confession: I still have my Christmas tree up. It’s perched in the corner of my living room, glitzy, glorious, and connected to a smart device that allows me to activate the lights with a simple command. I plan to keep it in place until February 1st and have it down before midnight on Candlemass lest the goblins come to get me*.
I’ve decided to keep my tree in place for a few extra weeks because I’m captivated by its luminosity. My Christmas tree is dotted with glass and glitter ornaments and roped with hundreds of miniature colored lights; their glimmer is the closest match I’ve experienced to my synaesthetic perceptions. The green lights are almost the same shade as the number 3. The red lights glow a vibrant pink like the name “Elizabeth”, the blue lights are the color of the month of September, and the yellow lights look exactly like 11AM. In all of these synaesthesias it’s not just the color that’s a match, it’s the luminosity, the backlit quality that is an almost perfect representation of what I perceive in my mind’s eye.
I see all of my numbers, letters, and words in color, which are examples of grapheme->color and lexeme-color synaesthesias. I also see the months of the year as colors, and the time of day as well. These sequences and time units don’t always correspond to their lexemes. For example, the month of September is a luminous medium blue, the same color as my letter “S” and the lexeme “September”. But the month of October is golden yellow, even though my letter “O” is white as is the word “October”. All of these synaesthetic phenomena have rich, consistent color and luminosity that’s been with me forever and is connected to my earliest memories.
Some of those early memories include a sense of sadness and dejection when it was time to take down the Christmas tree. I think my disappointment was as much about the end of the festive holiday season as it was about the loss of an object that mimicked the kind of light I experienced as part of my sensorium, a light that is embedded in so many of my mental constructs. So, I’m keeping my tree up another couple of weeks, and appreciating its radiant beauty in these dark January days. And, I’ll be sure to follow the edict in Robert Herrick’s 17th century *poem “Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve”:
“Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.”