The Botanical room part 11- Blue and all that you do
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
Blue is one of the most soothing colours, one of those colours that triggers all kinds of associations, the most obvious thing, at least this time of year, is 'the blues'
But I don't want to go there, not that I would ever underestimate the emotions or the amazing music it has inspired over the decades. But today I want to reclaim it for my own purposes, the beautiful, calming associations of blue.
Let's say when you are feeling blue, you instead conjure images of fabulous blue sky.
My Nan used to say, 'Is there enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers?' It was a wonderfully silly thing for my Nan to say, but I found it utterly confusing. I would look upward, searching the sky for flying, wide-legged trousers, like those worn by Norman Wisdom in a comedy sailing film. Once I understood that it referred to how much blue sky was visible, like a length of blue fabric, I was delighted with the saying and would imagine the pattern pieces all laid out.
What makes the sky blue? The smallest wavelengths of the colour spectrum are blue, and they are scattered by the particles in the earth's atmosphere to create a blue sky, Mr Blue sky if you please.
Is not the rare frayed patch of blue sky, more intense and beautiful when revealed between grey clouds, so much more appreciated, and a more fabulous treasure? We know it is always there and just needs the smallest gap to show its face and remind us that nice days will follow.
A blue sky is the one thing we in the northern hemisphere treasure the most, that is, when it appears, especially in the winter months. we literally jump outside on a sunny day no matter how cold, as we are so grateful for the break in the clouds.
I recall a precious moment with my father, way back in the 1980's, when I was a young teenager; we ate cornflakes and sat together on the back doorstep. The winter had been long, but that morning a gap had opened in the clouds, the sky was the colour of light sapphire, and the step was instantly drenched in warm sunlight. It was just enough to bake away the cold air. My dad and I exclaimed how treasured this moment was; he said the warmth was so glorious that he could almost imagine drinking it. I love that recollection. It was a small celebration on 'the now'; it felt like we were the only two people seeing the sky and feeling the moment, and the cornflakes tasted better too.
I sat on the step enjoying the sun
The first for a while you know,
I sat on the step with my father beside,
That day we had nowhere to go.
We sat and enjoyed sun on our skin
Knowing that spring had just sprung, you know.
The warmth had lit and inspired our hope,
Today we would go with the flow.
We sat dad and I, with the future before,
And the happiest past you could know,
And the warmth of the step, like the warmth in our hearts,
Was the meaning of life,
yes the meaning of life,
don’t you know.
One of my favourite photographs of blue sky was from a visit to Madrid (see above). It was March and cold; however, on one particular day, it was just how I had imagined it would be, glorious and welcome and unforgettable. All this beauty from light and particles!
Let's say when you want to escape the grey, you think of big blue oceans. I often think of the sea when I want to recreate bright light in my mind's eye.
You know the scene; when the sun skips and twinkles on the tiny distant water peaks when you are on a beach looking out to sea and the dazzling sun-stars glitter on the surface far away. Are you there yet? Even on the coldest beach, it is a moment to behold.
Oh dear, now I am craving a beach holiday.
The point I am making is this image is one that I can bring to mind at any moment, and it always fills me with a flood of warmth and wonder.
My eldest son loved the beach when he was young, I think he still does; no matter what the weather, he would run to the waves shouting at them to catch him as he ran back and forth. Even on the coldest days, when we only went to the beach to throw a ball, he would run to the sea, get totally wet and roll in the sand until he looked like a crispy-crumb coated drumstick. We would always take 3 sets of clothes for him and often took him home in just a towel and coat when the clothing spares had each been drenched. That enthusiasm was infectious and cheering and would make a windy, wet day at the beach a glorious adventure.
The blue colour of an ocean is created by the water molecules absorbing the red wavelengths from the light, causing it to reflect in blue. This is why shallow water appears to be a lighter blue than deep water, as less absorption happens and therefore less reflection. A glass of water is not big enough to absorb much of the red wavelengths and so it appears clear.
the pure light ripples
my memories of you
(my boys at the beach)
Let's say when we think to pick up our paintbrush, we look to paint blue, the myriad of blues in the head of a hydrangea flower, the intense lapis lazuli of a delphinium. There are few true blue flowers and plants, as the plants have to perform a clever tricks with plant pigments called anthocyanins. The plants perform a variety of modifications involving pH shifts and mixing of pigments, molecules and ions using the anthocyanin pigments.
These shifts together with reflected light through the pigments, create the blue colour.
If it sounds complicated, it is, and for all my reading on the subject, I am none the wiser. I do believe it to be a little bit of plant magic, which makes it much more fascinating.
From the blue chintz wallpaper in my Nan's bathroom, to my childhood blue rose patterned party dress, blue flowers only serve to bring me happy thoughts.
The Name Beryl means blue-grey, my mother's eyes were blue-grey and her name was Beryl, I wonder if that was the reason gifting her that name?
Hurrah for the blues.
So let's love 'the blues' when the feelings come, let us transpose them to all the beautiful blues we know, let's recategorize and gently place the blues into our folder of joy.
Hope to see you soon, when the skies are blue.
Warm sun-kissed wishes Billy
And remember the light is always worth waiting for.
Bluebell © Billy Showell