For me, symbolism is everything. If I see a bluebird more than once on the same day, I am wondering what that means. If I spy my favorite number (12), I’m trying to figure out what God is speaking to me. To some that may seem silly. Coincidences still happen, right? Not to me. I believe in the ability of everything around me to speak or sing the song of living and loving.
So, the other day, a friend was coming over. I didn’t want to make excuses for why my home looked like a tornado had blown through it, and since hosting people is one of the ways I come alive, I prepared for her visit from the start of the day—cleaning, organizing, and putting up art. By the time she arrived, I was wiping down my wooden countertops and the dishes were drying on one side of my black enamel sink.
As the sun faded, I turned on my lamps. My friend and I sat across from each other on the sofa and chatted about boys, culture, and film. While the light from warm Edison bulbs gave the illusion of heat, we were still chilly. So we pulled blankets up around our socked feet because although the day had been close to 90 degrees, the evening was dropping closer to 40. We laughed and dug deep before settling into the silence that friends enjoy. From my vantage point in the room, I could see my entire 500-square-foot living space.
I started to remember how when I was a little girl I dreamt of a home of my own. A place where I could paint my walls, choose my furnishings, and play my music. I thought about pictures I had drawn, the homes of starlets and artists I had seen in magazines, and a sense of satisfaction bloomed in my chest. When change is constant, dreaming of your own space becomes a kind of gift. Now, here I was decades later, finally in my own home. But what made it mine?
Was it the beautiful piece of art with the likeness of Andre 3000, my framed Matisse print, the Peruvian print of a sky-facing Black woman? Was it the botanical fruit graphics, the images of Dior gowns, the random vintage educational prints? All the words and lots of colors. Well, not lots of them. Mainly just two: deep, rusted orange and a vivid, arctic blue. Bouquets of dried orange, brown, blush pink and tan florals sat in complementary vases like a sepia photograph. While my record player, two suitcases filled with my journals, and a film camera all sported the same icy blue finish. My friend’s presence seemed to blur and, like a slow-motion scene in a movie, I absorbed all these details I hadn’t noticed before.
According to various studies, colors have meaning. It isn’t as simple as a dictionary definition—more like a language. Throughout the world, the human relationship to color is usually informed by cultural experiences. While red in Western cultures can represent power, passion, or love, in certain Eastern cultures it can mirror luck or happiness. In European cultures, green is a color of luck, progress, or jealousy; whereas in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, it represents fertility and good fortune.
Orange reflects freedom, creativity, and warmth, while blue represents intelligence, trust, and purpose. Subconsciously I had been building a world around me that reflects the work I have been doing on the inside. The blank areas of my life where I felt stuck, afraid, and aimless, were now being colored with vibrant hues of freedom and creativity, and the cool, assured washes of purpose and trust.
My childhood bedroom had blank walls. I didn’t put anything up. I mean, maybe I hid my Lil’ Bow Wow and B2K posters in the closet so my mom didn’t see them, but nothing else. We moved around so much that I didn’t know what home was yet. Walking through the hallways of my childhood homes, we had Bible verses, educational charts, and photos of the family on walls. That was the home my parents had built, but what about me? What had I accomplished? What did I value? Now when I look around my space, I find the answer.
Our subconscious beliefs and ideas have a way of finding their expression in our most intimate of spaces: in private conversations, in our dreams, and in our homes. It took the fading light of the sun, a few lamps, and a waning conversation with a friend for me to see the person I had become.
Maybe you’re communicating something, too. The way you’ve chosen joy through the yellows, or how passion has become a part of your story through the reds. Your commitment to keeping things alive around you in the greens, or how you’re overcoming anxiety and depression through the tranquility of blues and whites.
Take a look around—how does your space reflect the person you’re becoming?
Jake Glover says
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing the lenses of how you see the world!
Eniola Abioye says
Jake, thank you. I believe life can be beautiful. If we let it.
Elois Terry says
Beautifully written. It made me think and I question if my space reflects the inner me then I have some work to do. I am so much more. Thank you for the insight
Eniola Abioye says
Elois, thank you for sharing this. We are all in a process. The fact that you’re aware is a huge part of your growth and process. Keep moving forward and keep loving yourself as you do.