The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Feeling Blue
Ron Smith, Valley Morning Star, March 8, 2003, © 2004

Toss out those tranquilizers and other medicines that take off the edge. Save some cash and eliminate side effects! I heard recently that just visualizing the color BLUE will relieve your stress. This seems contradictory to our usual concept of the "blues," and the frightening thought of "turning blue," which could be your final color! Moreover, it is true that blue food is not appetizing except to children who love blue Jello and to those imbibers who like to drink Curaçao, the blue booze. Then too there is the blue corn tortilla, mainly famous in Santa Fe, New Mexico and other regions of the Southwest, but I'm not sure why since it is more gray than blue. Our cat Flan (named for her coloring, not a sweet disposition, by the way) has blue eyes that are menacingly icy and even wicked. The Buff-bellied Hummingbirds that tap on our windows are not intimidated, it would appear. However, these are all exceptions.

In order to use this soothing technique, it seems to me you must come up with an object or a background. For this, let's turn to Nature: the sky is blue, especially here in the Rio Grande Valley. It might not work in Seattle. I know someone who sails peacefully off to slumber by picturing a blue sky adrift with comforting clouds. There are other representations in the natural world. Look at our Green Jay; that blue head is delightfully dazzling, complementing the bird's bright greens and yellows. And farther north there is the Blue Jay. Even though jays are not restful but rather noisy, active birds, their coloring may be so. The Eastern, Western and Mountain Bluebirds are seemingly more peaceful beauties, especially the all-blue of the latter, showing stunningly against rocky western backdrops. Actually, as most birders know, blue birds are not really blue at all! That is to say that their hue is not the result of pigmentation, as in most birds. Color is refracted through feather cells, not absorbed but bouncing back to us as blue. If you crush a bluebird's feather, it will lose its color as the cells are destroyed. Do that with a Northern Cardinal feather, and you still have the basic red. It really does not matter; they are to be admired anyway.....especially in the case of my favorite shade of blue: the Hyacinth Macaw, a large and rare parrot with plumage of plush royal blue. Just don't dwell on that enormous beak, which probably has a crushing power of more pounds per square inch than a pit bull.

There is blue in butterflies, too. The Spring Azures, the High Mountain Blue, the Morpho, those huge bright blue species of Latin America. the Bluewing here in South Texas and others. Blue flowers abound. Helen Hunt Jackson's poem about September has the line "the gentians' bluest fringes are curling in the sun." You don't see them here in the Valley, but if you travel north, there they are --- gems of autumn along with the asters. What could be more relaxing than gazing on a field of Texas Bluebonnets, their coolness enhanced by the contrasting warmth of firewheel and paintbrush? There are also Bluets (damselflies and butterflies have species called this, too), Morning Glories, Plumbago, Blue Mist (the butterfly magnet), and many more decorating the gardens, pastures and woods.

Also in nature we have blue waters, blue lagoons, blue moon, blue heaven, and not to be slighted, thanks to Willie Nelson's, "blue eyes cryin' in the rain."

Alas, I have to admit that my favorite color is red-orange, perhaps akin to the shades of alarm, alert or anger. You know, that does not seem to have a calming effect. Now that I think about it, maybe I should go lie down and contemplate blue.

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