Having found lists of obscure/obsolete color names and rounded out the alphabet with a few simply-charming-to-me colors, each day, I’ll introduce a color and a swatch I’ve painted and then write about whatever comes to mind as I muse about the day’s color. Fair warning, my mind is a non-linear traveler, so who knows where my contemplations will take us.
W is for… Watchet – sky blue
Watchet is believed to be named after the English town of Watchet because the cliffs around it look light blue due to the alabaster rocks.
Musing on this color, I find my thoughts turned to birds, and these words of Rumi snuck up on me: “Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. “
I have a great love for birds, but that wasn’t always the case. When I was a very very young child visiting relatives, they let their bird out of its cage, and it flew at me, sending, me into terror. Apparently, for a while after, I was quite phobic, until my older sister, the brilliant comforter that she was, told me about the bluebirds of happiness. A totally successful reframe, although I did a bit of a relapse as a teenager when cheeky flocks of pigeons and lake gulls who always waited until the last minute to take flight and then did it en mass, made me fear that perhaps my eyes were in danger of being pecked. Luckily that turned out to be only a temporty insanity I outgrew.
A few years ago, I wondered about the origins of the association of bluebirds with happiness. Some surface research didn’t really provide much clarity, although it is a symbol many cultures have used. The earliest known reference is from 1700 BCE in ancient China, where a bluebird was the messenger for the goddess Xi Wangmu. Additionally, the Diné people identify the mountain bluebird as a spirit in animal form, associated with the rising sun. Their “Bluebird Song” was a reminder to wake at dawn and rise to greet the sun.
Bluebird said to me “Get up, my grandchild, It is dawn,” it said to me
These vintage bluebird images delight me, and although technically not really a bluebird, I do have a blue jay feather or two.
Since I’m on a sky and birds jaunt, let me mention All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. It’s a novel divided into four sections, covering different times in the lives of the two main protagonists. It’s ultimately a tale about the great divide between science and magic and the apocalyptic path we’re heading ourselves towards. While there’s not a happily-ever-after ending, it offers glimpses of hope and encouragement for working collaboratively, along with reflections of what it means to accept one another.
The beginning is heart-breaking when we get a view of the harshness of childhoods of the two children who just don’t fit – in their families or society. Laurence does his best to escape through super geeky science, and Patricia has an out-of-body magical experience wherein she realizes she can talk to birds and ends up finding a magical tree. They develop a tentative friendship, neither having any real experience trusting others, but it’s not the saving grace for either of them.
They meet up years later when Laurence has established himself in the science/technology world, and Patricia has trained and is working within a magical community. Patricia’s community is always harping on the need to avoid “aggrandizement” – to not stand out, not make oneself conspicuous. Laurence’s world is the exact opposite – the goal is always to be the one on the leading edge, getting the most funding, and most attention, creating the most innovative new thing. One of the things that still unites them, though, is each has an overarching sense of guilt, and each has the occasion to rely on the other for help, just as they did when they were children. Needless to say, their relationship is nuanced and complicated, whether they are actually physically in each other’s orbit or not.
They do end up in each other’s world again, though, as Earth itself is on the verge of collapse – with both the scientific/technological faction and the magical faction with their proverbial fingers on the button of mass destruction. And without offering too clear of a spoiler, should you be inspired to read the book yourself, they find a way to collaborate using both their skill sets that offers the possibility of a different path.
Finally, let me end with one more book: Pure Color by Sheila Heti. It’s an odd little novel I recently read, and while it doesn’t really have anything to do with birds, I found it quite compelling and am still thinking about it. It starts out with
In an overarching sense, the story is about how Earth is nearing its end, and the speculation that this is just the first draft, and in future iterations, “God” will get it correct. What will the next version will look like, and knowing that the current world will be replaced, how to make meaning of one’s current life? But the story is told through the eyes of a young woman’s grief at the loss of her father.
I was hooked immediately as the book started with a description of the three types of people that exist. “Specifically, three kinds of animals born from three kinds of eggs: people born from the bird egg are ‘interested in beauty, order, harmony and meaning.’ People born from the fish egg are ‘concerned with fairness and justice here on earth.’ And people born from the bear egg ‘claim a few people to love and protect, and feel untroubled by their choice; they are turned towards those they can smell and touch.’ “
Such interesting categories, wouldn’t you agree? I have no doubt I’d be in the bird clan. But I’m enjoying speculating what egg others have come from.
What about you? Ever been to Watchet on the Somerset coast of England? Have a bluebird of happiness story? Love feathers? Feel like you might be from one of the eggs in Heti’s book? Do tell – you know I’d love to hear.