|Bluebird (Credit: Anthony Mercieca/Getty Images)
Blue, the hue, is, as Angier's article suggests, a bit more complex and powerful an entity than we might imagine. Its popularity has, as Michel Pastoreau notes in his study Blue: The History of a Color (Princeton UP, 2001), risen and fallen over the centuries, returning in recent decades to widespread favor. Yet it was not always so and who knows, perhaps blue will fall for some reason or other in years to come (though I hope it triumphs next Tuesday!) Among artists, as Victoria Finlay points out in Color: A Natural History of Palette (Random House, 2003), it has often been treasured when available, and during the Italian Renaissance cost 5 times as much in pigment form as other colors, including various rare whites. Blue has distinctive, possibly beneficial cognitive, psychological and physiological effects.
Yet it's also associated with coldness, sadness, and death, especially when the lips or skin blues; it's linked to suffering, but also to the ability to live to tell about it--i.e., with the blues, which are often quite beautiful. According to Angier, blueness in food can suppress the appetite; I once worked with a man who found blue-colored food (blueberries, blackberries, etc.) nauseating. A blue light in your refrigerator might be just as effective as an apple instead of a bag of chips, or a radical diet. Blue also, Angier says, apparently attracts mosquitos, so no blue tee or polo shirts when summer comes. There's a lot more too she has to say about blue, so I recommend the article. Before you click on it, though, how about a little blue Frost?
Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?
Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)--
Though some savants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish for blue a whet.
Copyright © Robert Frost, in Harpers Magazine, July 1920. All rights reserved.