Friday, September 19, 2014

September Blues

Last week, on the first brisk day of the season, ocean alchemy transmuted Ipswich Bay into ultramarine. The color startles me even though it is predictable, like geese flying south. Nature reserves it for deep waters, rarely land or air. Like all colors it corresponds to certain mood phases.

Ultramarine conveys a spare dignity. George Washington adopted it for his Continental Army coat. The United States Postal Service used it on early stamps. Each syllable pair in the word connotes the unconquerable. Ultramarine. Say it slowly to yourself. 

As generously and diversely as The Pigmentist uses blue in water and sky, he restricts it modestly elsewhere. That tension makes blue many people's favorite color.

Cichorium intybus, chicory
Chicory flowers borrow blues from the horizon to the sky's zenith. Toward their pale center lies periwinkle, deepening through celestial blue  to azure at the tips of the petals. These tints have been available to artists since the rendering of the mineral lapis lazuli in ancient Persia. 
Partly because of its terrestrial rarity blue stands out noticeably in the landscape. I use it for marking flags in garden design. Blue lights in the rear view mirror invariably arrest a driver's attention.

Myrica pennsylvanica, bayberry
Blue suffuses the glaucous  bayberries developing now at Halibut Point. At midday the berries go white; at dusk gray. But that is the province of light rather than pigment.

Picea pungens, Colorado blue spruce
A spruce tree illustrates the complex relationship between blues and greens. Its shades shimmer, mingle, and disappear, calling to mind a parallel in the ancient quest to manufacture a blue mineral from copper and cobaltous oxides.  The resulting hue called caeruleus  in Latin meant, imprecisely, "dark blue, blue or blue-green." Prior to modern chemistry cerulean blue had the weakness of reverting to green in noble works of man.

Swida amomum, silky dogwood
September matures certain fruits into a pleasing range of blues. Exactly how you name them is a personal matter. Your conclusions may evolve with the ripening. For me these silky dogwood berries evoke the achievements of Egyptian blue and Chinese porcelain blue.

Viburnum dentatum, smooth arrowwood
Closer to black, viburnum berries offer Prussian blue to aesthetes as well as to birds.

Symphyotrichum novi-belgii, New York aster

As red begins to influence the blue spectrum, it produces blue-violet. The aster family exhibits a broad range of bluish colors including lavender and indigo. We name these tones most readily by referring to other flowers.
Blues occupy the cool portion of the spectrum, a calm between the industrious yellows of August and the pyretic reds of October. September lays summer down and extends a hand to fall. It clarifies the atmosphere and waters with gem-quality blues like aquamarine, turquoise, and sapphire. 
We're coasting a bit on summer bounty, not quite compelled to the compromises of autumn. Loveliness abounds with a wistful air. September blues stir the realm tenderly.



  1. I love this. I remember many fights with my brother about which color was better - red or blue. For me it was red. I still like red. But this article causes me to love blue.

  2. I make pots that are mostly brown, black or white, but people always ask for blue. The color blue is loved by everyone!