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Intuitions, Revisions: Storytelling as Inquiry
2005 Web Report
On Serendip

Seeing in Color

Leslie McTavish

Long ago in a place far from here there was a small country called Narendra. In that country there was a little girl named Aryana who lived with her family, in the tiny village of Hammond. Aryana was a shy but cheerful girl who loved to spend her days playing with her friends in the village. Early one morning while Aryana and her friends were outside playing, they heard a rumble in the distance. At first they thought a thunder storm was approaching, but the sky was clear. As the noise got louder and louder they could see a cloud of dust in the distance growing larger as sound of the rumble increased. As they stood motionless watching the cloud grow, they began to see faces emerging form the cloud of dust. It was a group of men on horseback thundering towards them.

Aryana and the other children screamed and started to run towards the forest to hide. Some of them managed to escape, but Aryana and several others were not so lucky. She felt someone grab her from behind and she started to fall. But, before she hit the ground, she was suddenly whisked up into the air. She landed face down on the lap of one of the riders who quickly bound her hands and feet so that she could not escape. In one short minute several other children had been snatched up too, and the band raced out of the village. It had happened so quickly that no one had time to save them.

They rode all day and through the night. It was the next morning before they finally stopped. The children were unbound and let down to the ground. They were standing on a hill. Beyond them they could see a shining city of glass enclosed in a circle of dense shrubs at least twenty feet high and a mile deep. The children were taken down to the edge of the wall of bushes and once up close, Aryana could see that the hedge was made of thorny holly trees. In the spot where they stood, was an archway cut out of the hedge.

"You cannot return home" they were told. "If you stay out here the wolves will come down from the hills at night and eat you. If you can make your way through the maze in the bushes you will find safety in the city. The wolves are not clever enough to follow you." Then the men got back on their horses and rode off. For a few moments the children stood silent, staring up at the huge hedge and then at each other. One of them said "Come on let's hurry and get going."

One by one they entered the archway, all except Ayrana, who was not so eager to rush in. She looked inside the opening in the hedge. It was dark and she was afraid to go in, but even more, she was afraid of the wolves. She stepped inside cautiously and waited until her eyes adjusted to the dim light inside. The passages were wide enough but the holly was very prickly and she had to be careful not to brush against the walls. She could hear the voices of the other children who had gone in ahead. They were laughing and shouting to each other, trying to figure out which turn to take next. Soon though, their voices began to grow more and more distant until eventually she could not hear them any more. Turn right, turn left, turn left again. Oh no, haven't I been here before? she thought to herself. She was getting very confused. Had she taken this path before or not? The harder she tried to find her way out, the more confused and afraid she became. She was so frustrated and frightened that she sat down in the middle of the pathway and began to cry. She thought she would never get out.

Aryana felt a nudge against her shoulder and opened here eyes. There was a tall thin woman standing over her.

"It's time to leave," the woman said. Aryana got back up on her feet and followed the woman for several minutes. Eventually the woman led her through another archway in the hedge. They were out of the maze and into the city. Aryana looked around in disbelief. This could not be the same shining city she had seen from the other side of the hedge. Tall gray buildings reached up to a gray sky. The trees and flowers were all gray too. People walking through the streets were all dressed in gray and their hair and faces were gray as well. There was no color in this city; everything and everybody was just different shades of gray.

The woman said that her name was Greta. She motioned to Aryana to follow her and led Aryana back to her house. Aryana walked inside, slumped down in a chair and said:

"I don't want to stay in this horrid city. It's so ugly! I want to go back home where I came from".

"You can't go back, and you are wrong about the city." Greta said. "If you had found your own way out of the maze you would be able to see all the beautiful colors that everyone else can. Since it is not possible for you to return to where you came from, you can stay in my house and do the household chores in return for a place to stay and food to eat."

So Aryana spent her days scrubbing and sweeping and dusting Greta's home. Greta was very kind to her and gave her a comfortable room to sleep in and plenty to eat, even though the food was gray and virtually tasteless. During the day while Aryana worked in the house, Greta left her alone and went into a small cottage behind the house. One day Greta asked her to go out to the cottage with her. The room inside it was dimly lit but there was a bright light over a table in the middle of the room.

"Come over here and have a look at this," she said. "What do you see?"

Aryana went over to look at what was on the table. It was a piece of loosely woven material that had small spaces between the weave. Some of the spaces had been filled with other strands of thread. Aryana looked hard at the pattern of shaded dots made by the threads that had been added and suddenly realized that it was a picture of a bouquet of flowers. Then something amazing began to happen. As she stared at the picture she began to see the colors of the threads. The shades of gray turned into hues of purple and green and she recognized the flowers were violets. She looked quickly around the room. Everything in the room was still gray, but when she looked back at the picture she could still see the colors. The woman picked up the material and started using a needle to pull the threads in and out of the small squares adding more dots which became more petals and leaves in the picture.

"Would you like to try it?" Greta asked.

She took the needle and thread and tried to do what Greta had showed her, but it was not quite as easy as it looked. At first she kept pricking her fingers with the needle and getting the thread so tangled in knots that she had to cut it off and start over. Greta worked with her patiently and showed her how to avoid making these mistakes. Aryana loved creating the pictures out of thread. There were hundreds of colors of thread to choose from and she loved spending time trying out different combinations of colors and deciding which ones to use. Most of all she loved seeing the pictures emerge from the patterns of tiny dots of color. Still, everything around her remained gray and the only colors she could see was the thread and the pictures she was creating.

Aryana worked on small pictures at first. Some were of birds or animals and others were of flowers or trees. After several months she had become very skilled and she decided one day that she was ready to combine all the things that she knew how to sew, into one large picture. It took months of working many hours each day before she had finally completed it. When she was done she hung the picture up on the wall of her bedroom and asked Greta to come and have a look at. Greta smiled when she looked at the picture. There was garden in a courtyard filled with flowers of every imaginable color. The brick walls of the courtyard were covered with branches of ivy and in the trees there were birds of orange, red and blue. The wooden door in one of the walls had a border of deep red roses. Beyond the small garden courtyard there were soft rolling hills and magnificent tall trees.

"It is beautiful," Greta said. "You should be very proud of yourself."

Aryana felt the warm glow of satisfaction deep inside, and said that she was.

"So, do you think you are ready?" Greta asked.

"Yes, I am" Aryana replied.

Aryana gave Greta a hug, and then turned towards the picture. She opened the door in the courtyard wall and walked into a world filled with color.

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