Study in Blue by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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It’s funny how some colors are descriptive of moods. Red, Mars’ color, is always associated with anger, blood, and war. Yellow has a sunny disposition, but it can also be cowardly. Purple is passionate, green is envious, black is despair, white is virginal. Orange is tricky: it combines the hot energy of red and the happiness of yellow so it’s associated with things autumnal—the cooling of the earth, the harvest, the sensation of heat but not its burn. POTUS will be the first to tell you that gold invokes prestige and wealth, but there’s also a hint of illumination and wisdom, believe it or not.

Then there’s blue. Some say it is a masculine color; it is, after all, the preferred color of glass-ceilinged corporate America. A lot of superheroes wear blue perhaps because in heraldry, blue is associated with strength, sincerity, and piety. Heaven is blue as is the wild yonder. But we all know blue has another aspect: a melancholy aura, grey clouds scudding across a bright sky, weight, heaviness, and an icy, lurking foreboding of lousy things to come. To feel blue is to be a bit down, somber and contemplative, at a remove from the sun, or maybe just be stuck in a rut. We’re all there from time to time; the trick is how to get out of blue, how to right the ship, how to lighten up!

Blue comes in a thousand different shades: teal, aqua, cornflower, cobalt, indigo, turquoise, ultramarine, mazarine (I have no idea), lapis lazuli, navy, steel, robins-egg, midnight, baby, and even something called zaffre to name a few. My personal favorite is periwinkle; someday, I’d love to live in a white house with a periwinkle door and periwinkle shutters. (Maybe I just like saying ‘periwinkle!’)

Blue has an unlikely circle of friends: I grew up in Pennsylvania where the Sunday Blue Laws meant no liquor could be sold on the Lord’s day. I know people who can swear a blue streak. Music is full of blue: Ella Fitzgerald could sing the Blues; The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Temptations put Rhythm & Blues on the musical map; Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt were the kings of Bluegrass. (There’s even a “blue note” in jazz, a note that for expressive purposes is sung a slightly different pitch.)

And more: Paul Bunyon named his blue ox “Babe;” blue heelers herd cattle or sheep in Australia while back here in America, bluetick coonhounds are known for their warm personalities and cold noses. Of course, there are blue whales, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, IBM (aka “Big Blue; see second paragraph about corporate America), blue bloods who wear blue blazers, blue moons, bluefish and blue crabs, Ol’ Blue Eyes, blue books (used for exams, social registry, and used car evaluations), Blue Duck (the villain in “Lonesome Dove”), the Navy’s elite Blue Angels, and our very own Blue Star Memorial Highway. Bobby Vinton sang “Blue Velvet” and who could ever forget Tammy Wynette’s ultimate country ballad of suffering and loss, plain old “Blue.” Oh: and 1mg Xanax, a popular antidepressant, comes in a blue pill. (Of course it does.)

Whew! Who knew? Blue.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A new collection of essays titled “Musing Right Along” will be released in June. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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