“The world is blue at its edges and in its depths,” writes author Rebecca Solnit in her essay, The Blue of Distance. “This blue is the light that got lost.”
“Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water, the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance.” […]
The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go.”
My favorite Christmas songs are not really Christmas songs at all: Steve Earle’s “Christmas in Washington” and Joni Mitchell’s “River“, from her 1971 album Blue. There is an entire blog devoted to Blue, which is one more reason to love the internet. On it I found a link to a list of some of the best covers of Mitchell’s songs, including a personal favorite, Beth Orton’s recording of “River.”
I’ve been dreaming of returning to Colorado, of finding a place to nestle within the arms of those mountains. For all kinds of practical reasons I have held the dream at bay. Maybe for reasons not so practical, as well.
Once more to “The Blue of Distance”:
“We treat desire as a problem to be solved […] though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. […] The mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them, and the blue instead tints the next beyond.”
Excerpts are from Rebecca Solnit’s Field Guild to Getting Lost, 2005. For something a little less melancholy, you can read her year-end essay, “Everything’s Coming Together While Everything Falls Apart” on Tomdispatch.com.