For a while, my heart had been set on painting our bathroom turquoise, but living in a damp, old, sandstone cottage, built in 1676, meant biding my time until Winter had taken her cloak of moisture to other lands. Patience, not my strong point, saw its naked self taunted by that long, drawn-out season.
Paint, in this house, has an unattractive party trick of slipping off the walls the minute the brush flirts with bodily contact.
It’s always such a thrill to me to change the colours of a room, to bring in new energy. I’d lived with sunshine yellow in most of the rooms for quite some time ~ an antidote, I’d hoped, to the miserable, grey British weather ~ the opposite of my Australian childhood, lived out in full spectrum lighting.
The dining room walls ventured from sunshine yellow, when the girls were toddlers, to terracotta; and then, last year, my heart yearned for lime green. I knew without doubt that I needed that colour around me on a daily basis. And I trusted that my hunch for cerise in the kitchen, and turquoise in the bathroom, would satiate my soul.
My mother practised colour therapy in my childhood, in lieu of allopathic medicine, so I’ve long been aware of how we’re influenced by the colours we wear and surround ourselves with, and their place in healing ailments and disease.
Winter went on her way. At long last the time came when I could slip on my oasis of calm turquoise ~ a warm, yet calming, colour which reminds me of the sea water surrounding Auckland, New Zealand, where my daughters were born. Out came the paint, and on it stayed. But when the turquoise made landfall by the rich dark purple we’d known for a few years, my heart sank. “NO! This is going to be awful. How could I have got it so wrong? What have I done?” At first, I didn’t dare let Paul come in to view it. But I kept on painting ~ after all, that’s what you do with a tin of paint! The colour which I’d fallen in love with in my mind’s eye months before, was now becoming more familiar to my eyes ~ it was starting to make a statement and speak up against the purple: finding its voice. My friend ‘turquoise’ was making its mark, showing me its full glory, defining its space. “Ah, this is better.” Our bathroom, like the kitchen, isn’t cat-swinging size ~ more postage stamp ~ and prone to mould pretty quickly, so we paint the ceilings the same colour as the walls. Paul finished painting the room, and when I came back all signs of purple were gone. I was comforted in the psychological waters of an oceanic calm.
With each brush stroke, I had been reminded of parenting, and how when we embark on new ways of relating to our children, and indeed, our life partner, we can so easily question if we’re making the right choices. Dismissing instinct starts becoming second nature. Perhaps the colour isn’t right after all? And yet, if we see things through, persevere a little, listen to the colour, feel the colour, try it from different angles, trust the colour ~ trust our soul whisperings ~ we come to a place of recognising that the old ways might have worked for a while, but it’s ok to move forward ~ to become anew in our selves.
When we hear intuition ~ call it what you will: gut reaction, a knowing ~ we’re able to listen over and over again and know that nothing, not even the most logical theory in the world, can match that inner voice. Our inspiration, creativity and survival thrive when we listen to our sixth sense. When you feel an idea, inclination, inspiration or even a warning, listen, and listen well. Prioritising quiet time ~ sometimes called meditation (though, for me, it commonly happens at the bottom of the garden when taking out the compost!) ~ allows us to refine our sense of knowing. Listen and acknowledge times of coincidence, serendipity and synchronicity in your life. Like a well-worked muscle, the more it’s worked, the more it will make itself available. There’s no stronger tool on our parenting path than this inner voice: our inner colours.
Other people will always have opinions on our colour choices ~ family, friends, strangers ~ and indeed, we’ll have opinions on theirs. I’ve no doubt that many people couldn’t live with the colours in my home ~ especially my landlord! ~ and equally, I’d find it difficult to live in a house which is dressed in grey, beige or all white (in this climate, anyway). If we don’t dare to be bold with colour, we’re unlikely to be bold with our dreams and passions. Colour expresses our mood ~ it speaks to our soul, and, I’ve no doubt, from our soul.
What are the true colours of your parenting? Are they vibrant, joyous, adventurous, spontaneous, slow, deliberate, happy, charming and calming? Do you paint the walls of your heart in the way you wish, or the way others wish you would? Just as house decorating adverts and tv shows tell us the latest fashion colours, so too does culture dictate the colour of parenting. But do we have to listen to the latest fad? Can’t we paint with the colours we love?
The latest trend in parenting might be to have your baby reciting the alphabet at two, or staying in a car seat 15 hours a day, or in nursery to ‘socialise’, but if your instinct is intact, and you feel the call of biology to nurture your baby in-arms, co-sleep, breastfeed on cue and eat whole foods, then feel proud of the colours in your soul, and don’t hide your light.
If I’ve learnt anything as a mother, it’s this: find your colours, those that make you swoon, and let them play out in your life. Change them when your heart calls you to ~ whatever you do, don’t play ’safe’. Colour, like intuition, tells us so much about a person’s history and future, but most importantly ~ the present moment. It illuminates like nothing else can.
This summer, sing a rainbow. Grow tall, bright yellow sunflowers, and indigo lobelia. Bathe with rose soap. Don a sky blue sun hat. Let orange nasturtiums dance like fire from your window boxes, and throw a sage green patchwork quilt across your bed. Eat juicy, ripe mangos naked in the bathtub; dig your hands in rich, fertile brown soil. Go on, wear that bright red bikini on the beach. Read your child a fairy tale inside the arms of a lime-green willow dome. Grab your trug and pick maroon aubergines, forest green spinach and parsley, sweetcorn and courgettes as bright as the sun, and tomatoes the colour of summer. Hang large bunches of lavender up to dry, so they can bring your senses alive when they incarnate into wee cushions for your underwear drawer.
Have you ever stopped to imagine a red sky, black grass, pink soil and a yellow ocean? Nature gave us colours for a reason. And we’re here as humans, amongst other things, to experience ~ we are the sensors of the Infinite ~ colours, in all their glory and subtlety, which are here for the painting, the seeing, the feeling.
So paint a rainbow in your heart, and love your children loud and strong, and love yourself.
Sending you Summertime blessings from the heart of Cumbria, in all her finest seasonal colours.