. . . just your average Caribbean American New Englander

Indigo Days Week #52essays2017 Week 9

Posted on Mar 26, 2017 | 0 comments


In Julie Dash’s film “Daughters of the Dust,” the women process indigo in the same fashion as their ancestors on St. Helena’s island. Nana Peazant, the family matriarch, works the indigo to the point where her hands are permanently dyed blue.

The Peazant women wear two colors: indigo to represent the past and white to represent the future.  Slavery and freedom. Where there is indigo, there is also white. One color is never far from the other.

When I saw this film back in 1991, I saw a family fighting to move forward and preserve traditions. But more than anything, I saw my blues on screen. When I get blue or sad, it’s deep and varied, as muddled and rich as the dye that bleeds from the indigo plant.

I have indigo days.

In the film, the history of processing the indigo is a source of shame and pride. The 20th century was dawning and the women of the family were caught between old ways and new possibilities. Indigo and island life would always be wedded to another with no room for the future to take hold. But here’s the thing about indigo: it stains. Indigo stains everything it touches. If you get near it you will be marked.

And do it is with my indigo days.

I try to avoid the indigos, even when I know they will overtake me. The harder I try to avoid the stain of indigo days, the more permanent the pigment. Most times, I give in. It’s just too hard to fight. I take to my bed and sleep, which only delays the indigo reaching into my skin. It is then that I choose to stay awake and sit under my indigo sky.

I have learned to mask the indigo days when I have to go to work or be in public. I lower my voice, smile, wear bright colors. If my indigo leaks, my students think they’ve done something to deserve my dour attitude. I don’t correct them. It’s too hard to tell the truth. My indigo is my business and, if I let it show too much at work or even at the grocery store, I might succumb to the stain forever.

On indigo days, I avoid mirrors. This is quite a trick since I need a mirror to put my makeup on. I don’t want to look at myself, for I know I’ll see traces of blue under my skin and trickling out of my ears.

When I catch my reflection, I wonder if people can see the indigo. Anyone who really knows me can see that some kind of cloud is threatening to choke me. Am I pulling it off, this master trick of looking just fine? Would anyone believe that I am one step away from full on madness? Yet, here’s the thing about life in the 21st century: most co-workers are work friends. They don’t know you as well as they pretend to. Social media has taken the place of staying in contact is your real friends, so even they don’t get to look into your eyes or have a reason to hear your voice on a simple phone call. And if you live alone, well, you can choose to deny your indigo to the mirrors but the walls that hold you and the floor that supports you, yeah, they know you have the indigos.

Most times, the indigo clouds leave. The sun comes out and there is nary a trace of the indigos. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed about the depth of the indigos: how close did they come to my skin? How could I be stained one day and clean the next?

It is, to me, the profundity of the indigos. The existence of whites and indigos at the same time, warring for the same space. Sometimes freedom wins, flashing her gauzy feminine fabric in victory. Great clouds of white fabric, like the skirts of the Peazant women, obscure all doubt about indigo. The ocean wind picks up the fabric, snapping it like sheets on a clothes line on a summer day.

Nana Peazant, like the indigo she wears and bears, will not go away. She is standing in the shade, waiting for the sun to go down. Waiting her turn to turn my days blue again.










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