Dec 5, 2022

Of Orange Leaves and Green Sunsets: a Day in the life of a Colourblind Person

Colour-blindness is but another lens through which the world may be known: a world full of startling vibrancy and endless change, writes Siothrún Sardina

Siothrún Sardina for The University Times
Siothrún SardinaSenior Editor

I remember well the day: the early-Summer sun marking early afternoon, a mid-day blue sky not yet descending into purple. Green blades of grass about us reaching ever-skywards, full of colour: not quite vibrant enough to be called red, and yet not so dull as to fade into pink. The gravel path on which we walked long having forgotten the fallen leaves turning green in the Autumn.Small stones about us marked with subtle greens and blues as they crunched under our feet.

We turned down a single path, choosing without particular cause the first trail to explore in the gardens.

She would have seen white flowers springing up towards the warm sun, rows of green leaves streaking against the sky as towering trunks and branches held them aloft. One in particular must have caught her attention: a tree covered in reddish flowers, jutting out against the green background like the sun shining through the sparse white clouds above.


Each tree painted in light and colour with thousands of brushes, the sturdy brown bark of each branch giving even more vibrance to the glowing reds and greens of leaves and flowers, the blue sky in the background giving a cool cast to the scene.

In my world the painter had but one brush. The browns of bark and branch flowed seamlessly into green leaves. Layers of green upon green slowly faded into a more vibrant, deeper red in the centre of the path before us where the red-flowered tree so subtly distinguished itself from the greens about it. Above its proud branches, the sky stood in stark contrast to all below: its blue colour so alien to red and green and brown alike that the small forest had all the allure of a full moon casting rays into the night sky.

Further on we tread along thin dirt paths in a sea of flowers, the occasional boulder giving a brief break from the backdrop of trees further outwards from the trail.

In her sight, yellow and orange and white flowers reigned over the rocky ground, their vibrance bursting forth against the less-assuming backdrop. Further along, thousands of shades of green on the trees would seem a more distant reflection of the lighter-green shrubs and vines before us. No two shades of green ever repeated, each new flowering shrub and winding tendril possessed of its own interpretation of the colour.

My eyes saw pink rocks scattered as a backdrop to each flower, their pink at times seeming to blend with the faint reds of shrubbery leaves. Other shrubs bore leaves with all the vivacity of an orange flame, their leaves akin to the central stand of yellow flowers, though those glowed with a much greater vibrance. The trees far away stood out against these visions, their darker greens much in opposition to fiery leaves on the smaller flora surrounding us.

It was as this that we walked – past stream and pond, over wooden bridge and stone steps, under tree or sky, paths lined with pebble or dirt. And if I saw reds in the wood, pinks in the stones, and noted a near-perfect reflection of the sky in purple flowers, who is to say the world is otherwise?

If she saw brown wooden planks and grey stones who each in turn made all the other colours stand out the more, if she saw in purple flowers a distant cousin of the sky rather than its twin, who am I to contest the allure of her view?

Two worlds we walked in, not one, though each step was taken side-by-side. I should be a fool to call one the more vibrant or the more beautiful – similarly, nor can I claim so deep an understanding of her visions as I had of my own. To her, I know, was a beauty entirely different, though no less stunning.

With many words we would exchange our sights – the two worlds merging as one, two perspectives giving another lens into the entrancing colours painting elegant scenes about us. I learned to see the world in a second light, and I should like to think that she was blessed with knowledge quite similar to mine.

To each the world of their own perceptions, their own enchanting world of colour – and to each and the alluring beauty of sharing them.

No two pairs of eyes have ever seen exactly the same. And indeed I have never seen the iridescence of the sunset that my friend would remember from that night after we parted. But as I watched the deep purple sky shift into flame-like layers of green and orange about the horizon, as I gazed upon the waters glow so vibrantly that the violet sky seemed blue in their mirror, I doubted that any other world was ever so lovely.

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