I’m mad for blue.
It might be my favourite colour.
When I was first shown the cover of “Sinning Across Spain”, the ratio of village to sky was different to the final version. My only request, because I thought the design completely beautiful, was for more sky and less village. That was partly because the experience of walking had been much more about sky and solitude than village and community, but it was also my delight in that intense turquoise, chosen by the brilliant designer.
There are so many of them in life’s Derwent pencil box, and all sing to me of horizons and skies, distance and possibility. Of opening, adventure, salt spray and infinity.
Why, then, do we say that we “have the blues” when we are sad or wan? Why not the purples, which seem to me to be much more fraught? Or perhaps the browns, which are murkier to my eye, and more like the way I feel when I can’t see woods for trees.
My online dictionary suggests that the first to use the word “blue” to mean “sad” was Chaucer, back in 1385. I wonder why he didn’t choose to say he had the “greys” – the colour I associate with those lowering English skies.
And why do people sing the “blues”? The great B.B. King says the blues are an expression of anger against shame and humiliation, but to my mind, that sounds more like the “reds”. The “vermilions” even!
I’ve had a dose of “the blues” lately. Nothing big. Certainly nothing that compares to the stories I was honouring and hearing as I walked 27 kilometres across seven bridges and through miles of national park in Sydney’s Seven Bridges Walk. It was a fundraiser for the Cancer Council, and I’ve rarely been more conscious of how fortunate I am to be walking and laughing with friends.
The Cancer Council employs a bright yellow daffodil on their logo – surely the colour of optimism and hope. Walkers who were supporting research for breast cancer wore pink – for some, the colour of birth and renewal and hope. I wore white – possibility, clarity, purity, perhaps. My intentions were pure; I was walking for the possibility of a brighter future; and I was holding clear memories of people who had lost lives to cancer.
But, blue. Why blue?
You know, I don’t feel I’ve had the blues. I think I’ve had the beiges, actually. A kind of grubby blah colour. Nothing to write home about, and brought on only by focusing on the minutiae of my own fears and inadequacies. I think maybe I need to go out and get me some periwinkle blue sea. Or some cornflower blue sky. Some perspective! After all, there is so much to celebrate…
May you have all of the blues all day long: the best and brightest of blues, the shimmering shiny blues; the deep naviest of blues; the crisp new blues; and the soft soft babiest of blues. Have them all – and throw off any greasy old greys!
And a postscript…If you feel like celebrating, raising a glass, kicking back and hearing some stories and poems, I’m going to be presenting a scaled down version of my Sinning Monologue at Travellers Bookstore in Melbourne on November 21st. I’d so love it if you came along. Claire is a great hostess and I promise to deliver with every bit of me! There will be French vins and fromages, and Spanish vinos and jamons – and hopefully lots of travel stories shared! Details for this – and several other events – are over on the Events and Media page. So hope to see you before the year closes.
6 thoughts on “Blues…”
How poetic, Ailsa, to question accepted conventions matching mood to colour. And how perfect your own re-working – and as I sit here now looking at the dark and light greens of the citrus trees through the wall-to-ceiling windows – with a beautiful and happy blue sky arching overhead. I remember when I first studied some Vietnam-names language – amazed that blue and green were perceived – in some senses – as aspects of the same colour spectrum – though adding the French “vert” specified what my cultural perspective would think of as green. And then years later studying Japanese and finding a similar sensibility to the blue/green spectrum – deriving from China – indeed it can be found right across Asia. Yet from my childhood days I recall a rule-of-thumb re mixing and matching colours with dress of my mother’s generation that together blue and green should never be seen. In a collection of the poetry of John Shaw NEILSON (1872-1942) edited and introduced by Prof. A.R.CHISHOLM A&R 1965 there is specific commentary about “green” being his favourite adjective – the colour of spring – of freshness – of soothing balm-like qualities. I like your sense that the drabness and muddiness of browns more aptly apply to the mood downswings than “the blues”! Then again – my blue-eyed mother (from whom I have inherited that eye colour) loved the song of her youth: “Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes…” because my father’s eyes were a deep, dark brown…and for her thus no depression in that colour – though his early death in a car accident (only 24) certainly did bring her much grief – of course – and for me and my little brother – consciously unaware because too young – a darkness of sudden inexplicable loss or abandonment. Where was he? Gone in deep, grey winter!
Always such lovely reflections from you, Jim. But oh those last sentences. The sadness. That is most definitely beyond the blues, such a loss. That is black and lasting. I’m so sorry for your Mum – and also that you had to lose your Dad so soon.
People’s stories always take my breath away. You did that today. Thanks for writing it here for us, companero. Really. Gracias.
I totally agree with your post Ailsa.
How could anyone be depressed while staring at a bright blue sky,or at not least feel better for the sight of it ?
Although I am biased as sky blue is my favourite colour,not to mention the main colour of my favourite football team,the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
Although with the Sharks never having won an NRL Grand Final I guess us fans do feel a bit blue/grey/purple/black by season’s end 🙁
Congratulations on the book’s reprint and I hope it gets many more…it deserves to.
Poor Sharks. I will think more kindly on them now I have that rumination in my mind. I’m a Geelong cats woman, and of course they are navy blue and white the colours of champs!
Thanks for your lovely words about the book too, Darren. I feel incredibly lucky.
I was just reading Steve Kilbey’s (lead singer of “The Church”) latest post and his poem has eerily similar themes to your post above in regard to colours and moods.
Ooohh, you are right, Darren. Those last lines are particularly connected. Scarlet for fever and cerulean blue and marvels abounding. Thanks. Again.