I imagine purple. A soft, jolly purple. Full and folding like a wonderland spiral. Lighter than the color of my dog Nestlee’s first collar. Darker than my mom’s favorite, periwinkle.
When Tova Leah asked us at the start of “Personalizing Prayer” class to close our eyes, place our feet flat on the floor, rest our hands in our laps, and to breathe a color, I thought purple. I don’t know why, but I was flooded with swinging shades of violet, rippling lilac waves—if lilac even is purple, because maybe it is pink.
Tova Leah said to let our color fill our lungs. Let it sweep in, fill up and glide out. And again, sweep, fill and glide, and “this time, when you fill up with color, raise your eyebrows.”
For what? I thought. To infuse the color even higher, even deeper? but I obeyed and scrunched my forehead into squiggles.
“Let your color go down your belly as the air drifts away, feel the color trickle down to your fingertips, then more and then further—let the color fall down,” she said, “all the way to the tips of your toenails.”
Funny, I thought, my toenails are currently painted a light, quiet purple. I laughed at this and wondered if it was okay to laugh while meditating.
How do you breathe a color? I claim I breathed purple, but what is purple? Perhaps it is actually blue to you, an oceanic turquoise. Maybe it’s a warm navy to him.
What is purple?
I think there is no answer.
What is my purple?
It’s the comfort of lavender soap, it’s the playful flip of my magenta, swirly dress when I wear it humming and twirling—whirling Shabbos into being. It’s the lush eggplant in the refrigerator with its potential for bitterness or great delight if it’s ripe and absorbs my spices in the oven. It’s when I take fiery (or do I mean fire-y) transient sunsets and paint over them with a fresh and electric blue; I get crazy purple. And sometimes I don’t even need art or imagination because the real smoky sky does this for me and we marvel: “look at the unrealistic purple shades that close the day!”
I feel purple means I feel plums, and I believe in juicy grapes. I feel the disappointed stain of beets on my new white sundress and the sound of the long bladed knife slicing through purple cabbage. I see the vinegar in that cabbage slaw and the laughs around the table. I inhale the crunch and I listen to the blood oranges, watch the sting of acid under my cuticles on a winter afternoon.
To breathe a color is to take in something you cannot in truth absorb. It is to consume the inedible, to smell a glass of water, to eat the browning scent of Autumn. It is to touch last night’s dream, to taste calm, crossing boundaries and flipping things inside out, like socks headed to the wash. It is to eat spaghetti for breakfast and pancakes for dinner.
To close your eyes and to breathe a color is also to trap your conscious self inside yourself, to force a singular, lone experience and unaccompanied sensation because no one else knows what color you are breathing; in fact, no one even cares. To breathe a color is to ignite a spirit or an essence that’s true only to you and to embody it; to feel it and let it feel you.
I feel purple.
For a moment, I can be purple. Any shade. There are no rules.
I could even be yellow.
Candace recently graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a minor in Jewish Studies, as well as completed the Creative Writing Nonfiction Sequence. She is currently in Jerusalem where she spends her days (and often nights) studying in the Beit Midrash at The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. she is also working on a project, Jerusalem Medley, to share the stories of Jerusalem’s hodgepodge of inhabitants.