Friday, 21 December 2012

Solstice Greetings

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day when the sun stands still before reversing direction and coming back to us (in the Northern hemisphere). The returning of the light. 

At its core, the Christmas season celebrates this natural phenomenon and all that it represents, namely, the light overcoming darkness.  The Solstice has been acknowledged for millennia, back when our ancient ancestors lit fires to keep the darkest part of the year at bay. Now every winter celebration, be it Christmas, Hanukkah or Diwali, uses light or lights as its symbolism. 

Because it's pretty powerful symbolism. And as such, a very special time of year.

For me, it feels different in the days around the Solstice. Ever notice how the days seem almost coated in silver at this time of the year? Like all along, we've had dull grey miserable days, but now suddenly, between the frost and the cold (or maybe the expectation and general all round bonhomie) they've taken on a more luminous glow - a silver lining so to speak (not to mention a golden glow radiating off people.)

And it is in our own light, and our own acknowledgement of the light I suppose, that the real magic of the season ignites its spark. 

Below, are some poems I thought represent the Solstice, that is, the welcoming back of the light, in all its forms.  (Now I know I have a whole other blog for this - A Poem a Day - 
but I just couldn't resist posting some poems here in honour of the season). 

Enjoy the holiday season! Lots of light to you!




In Winter's House - Jane Draycott

In winter's house there's a room
that's pale and still as mist in a field
while outside in the street every gate's shut firm,
every face as cold as steel.

In winter's house there's a bed
that is spread with frost and feathers, that gleams
in the half-light like rain in a disused yard
or a pearl in a choked-up stream.

In winter's house there's a child
asleep in a dream of light that grows out
of the dark, a flame you can hold in your hand
like a flower or a torch on the street.

In winter's house there's a tale
that's told of a great chandelier in a garden,
of fire that catches and travels for miles,
of all gates and windows wide open.

In winter's house there's a flame  
being dreamt by a child in the night,  
in the small quiet house at the turn in the lane  
where the darkness gives way to light.


Lines for Winter - Mark Strand

  for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are. 

Starlings in Winter - Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

12 Poems of Christmas...

Just to let you know I am posting Christmas poems daily all this week  (and beyond...) on my poetry blog: A Poem A Day

There'll be some famous Christmas poems, some old ones and some new ones, funny ones and fabulous ones, meaningful odes, comic limericks and magical musings; from poets such as: Carol Ann Duffy, EE Cummings, TS Eliot, Wendy Cope, UA Fanthorpe, John Agard, Mary Oliver, Alice Oswald and WH Auden. 

Poetry always comes out and about at Christmastime. As well as the odd reading of a Christmas poem or two, it's in the carols we sing, the cards we write, the films we watch and most importantly, the things we feel. Magic, yep, that's it; that special twinkly atmosphere that enfolds us. That's poetry's raison d'etre: to capture all those indescribable lovely feelings.

So pop on over for the Christmas blog equivalent of mulled wine and a mince pie! :) There's a poem for you in there I'm sure of it!  And please feel free to share suggestions of your favourite Christmas poems (or carols, or moments, or just things for that matter...!), comments, or just your welcomed presence. :) 

Seasons Greetings! 

~ Siobhán

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday Morning Musing: The Practice of Art

Yes, of course it is. And while in the process of growing your soul, you make a life, and a real 'living.'

~ Siobhán

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter Warmings

'Ice Floes, Misty Morning' - Claude Monet

Everyone has a favourite season. I'm not one for winter (it's spring I love - 'winter is in my head, but eternal spring is in my heart' ~ Victor Hugo) - what with all the cold, the dark, the claustrophobic indoor living. But I have to give it its dues. There are a few things that I like: sitting by the fire, reading books, snow and the lore that accompanies the season: magic and the many metaphors of survival, transformation and revelation. 

Winter is the season of darkness, but is strangely, full of light. It's the time when the sun is away, but instead we have firelight, Christmas lights and glorious sunsets. It's recognised in metaphor as a time of hardship, a testing trial, but also, one in which strength can be recognised, triumph can occur over adversity, where the light of hope can kindle in darkness, -'In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.' ~ Albert Camus

Winter light is one good characteristic of the season. Look at the deep blue skies at dusk. Yes, before the blackness sets in, there is blue, a wonderful royal blue, aglow, as deep as any ocean and the perfect background for stars. And just look at the stars - aren't they whiter and brighter now than in summer? And the moon, like a white mirrorball, set alight, frosty bright. And winter sunsets have the most varied range of colours than any other seasonal ones - a wealth of reds and pinks and purples (the kind that'll have you racing out with your camera trying to get a pic! - see opposite...) Talk about vibrant! It seems these are the intense primary colours of the sky, not the pastel ones of fairer weather.

And then there's the light, late afternoon, just before sundown. Is it because there's a lack of light in days that when it does show itself, it looks so majestic, so terrific and terrifying? I was stopped in my tracks by it today, a golden blaze on the horizon, streaming through the grey clouds and lighting them silver. Amazing. (See photos below) Is it because it is such a contrast to the dull of the days? And then more appreciated and alchemic. Whatever it is, it is glorious. Maybe in these last few days before the Solstice, it plays out some spectacular light shows for us? And when on the subject of light - how could I not mention the magical Northern Lights - the star attraction of the season. But I'd need a whole other post to delve into the beauty of them!

I don't love winter. Not even close. I used to hate it. But now, I've become more accomodating to it. I've seen some of its treasures and have saluted them. 

I like the intimacy of it, the quiet, the scope for solitude and introspection - 'There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.'  ~Ruth Stout. Savour belonging to yourself, yes that's it. A hibernating of a kind.

It's definitely a more sombre season. Quiet. Discerning. Things become more visible in its clear frosty palette, 'The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.' ~Terri Guillemets. Things are as they are. And while waiting for it to pass, sometimes you can see the necessity of it. And the beauty. 

For there definitely is beauty in it. Like there is beauty in tragedy or melancholy, or deep silence. It's there. As tentative as a shimmering iced lake or cool blue arctic sky or frost on a window. It's a fragile beauty. Hanging in the balance of acute observation.

Anyway, some more winter  musings below, including winter reads, and some photos I shot over the past few days. I always used to see winter as grey and monotone - but really it's a patchwork of cool colours - blues and greys and whites and all kinds of silver linings - the colours of stillness and quietness, and gentle epiphanies perhaps. 

What's your favourite thing about winter? 

~ Siobhán 


'and saw the light hurl down 
like hammers flung by the sun 
to light-stun me, batter  
the water to pewter,  
everything dream or myth', - Carol Ann Duffy, 'Ballynahinch'

'Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and bloom, but we hope it, we know it.' ~ Goethe


'What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter's day?' ~ Henry David Thoreau

'I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

'In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurge of nature.' - Edna O' Brien

This is a beautiful collection of short stories and musings by Finnish writer, Tove Jansson. 'A Winter Book is full ofstories that make art of life ad celebrate the life of art,' Ali Smith says in her introduction to the book. 

The stories are fine and slight, but full of the wonders of the imagination and the Nordic landscape. A perfect winter read by the fireside! 

(You can read more here)

This looks so cool - the new book from The New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik consists of essays on the season, exploring artists and writers views on winter, telling the story of winter in five parts: Romantic Winter, Radical Winter, Recuperative Winter, Recreational Winter, and Remembering Winter.
'If I have to count the very few serene moments in an unserene life, they would all be winter moments...' - Adam Gopnik
(You can read more here)

Irish writer Patricia Scanlon shares her favourite poems, childhood recollections and personal stories that have inspired her and her ruminations on why winter is so beloved to her. It'll warm your heart on a cold winter's evening! (Accompanied by lovely illustrations)

 (You can read more here)


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Thank you very much to Ruby for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award - it's pretty cool to get a nomination  (shucks) - thanks!

I must admit I've never heard of Liebster before, but so glad I have now (just google it and see the wealth and warmth of blog nominees). Apparently liebster is German for 'like' and the award consists not of an actual award but of good words -  bloggers acknowledging one another across the blogosphere as a formal way of saying 'hey, I really like your blog, good work, keep it up!' - a compliment of a kind, a way of encouraging and introducing new bloggers and blogs. 

And I'm all for sharing the blogger love! So many people writing great blog posts and not getting any acknowledgement! This award seems like a  little 'kudos' to all bloggers I suppose... 

So in that case, I'll give it a go. (Even though I prefer to be asking the questions rather than answering them! I don't like to be too personal in what I'm writing, but I suppose, everything we write reveals a little of ourselves anyway....)

*Rules for Liebster 
 Write a post about the Liebster blog award including to:
-Thank the person who nominated you and mention them in your blog (with link to theirs)
-List 11 things about yourself
-Answer the 11 questions posed by the person who nominated you
-Create 11 questions for your nominees (you can nominate whomever you choose (up to 5 people I've read in some posts, others say 11) - just make sure they have less than 200 followers) Oh but you can't nominate the person who nominated you.
-Don't forget to inform your nominees!

So here goes. Right, ahem - 11 Things About Me:
(Hmmm, just randomly, off the top of my head - )

1. I'm a writer. (But not everyone knows this, I shy away from telling most people...)
2. I don't act my age (not even close!) 
3. I believe in magic. 
4. I'm an avid reader and adore books.
5. I'm a die-hard idealist and won't cave in to settling for anything less than the best!
6. I love coffee.
7. I want to be a professional writer, more than anything else in the world. 
8. Well - apart from living in Paris! - I'm an utter Francophile
9. I'm quite lazy (and most definitely not a morning person! See point 6...)
10. My favourite thing to do in the whole wide world is to write.
11. I'm an out-and-out dreamer, by default. 

11 Questions - (from Ruby)

1. What's  the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Hmm, try and adjust to reality! The very first thing - usually go over the ideas in my head for writing that day.
2. What starsign are you?
I'm an Aries, blatantly so! - headstrong, feisty, independent and with a short temper!
3. When did you start blogging?
Last year - May 2011, I finally took the leap into cyper-space.
4. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Chocolate, without a doubt.
5. What 3 things would you bring to a desert island?
A book of poetry (to keep me calm), a notebook with pen (to keep me sane and me), and an iPod (to keep me happy and in tune ;) Then I'd be quite content (well, considering, there's an adequate food supply nearby and shelter et al...!)
6. Have you ever been in love?
Yes. I'm an ultimate Romantic and fall in love all the time, even against my better judgement.
7. What is your party trick?
I don't have one! I'm more of a wallflower than the life of the party...
8. Who is your hero?
I don't really have a hero per se... I have lots of heroes I suppose, from characters in books to strangers in real life. I really look up to and admire free-spirits - people who do their own thing regardless of society's expectations and who aren't afraid to live their life fully - people who are brave, in many different ways.
9. What actress would play you in a movie about your life?
Gosh - it'd be a pretty boring movie! I honestly don't know... It'd have to be someone quirky and not afraid to look uncoiffed most of the time!
10. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? 
Giving. I love giving people gifts - from mix CDs to books to all kinds of nick-nacks. Mostly because I like introducing people to things that I like! and things I think they would like too.
11. What is your motto?
Follow your bliss, chase  your dreams, believe in  beauty and magic along the way!

I would like to nominate (in no particular order):
*Cheryl ~  Strange Little Pearls - who writes so beautifully on every topic
*Juliette ~ It Starts at the Beginning - who regales us with her hilarious & dramatic stories
*Mary ~  Creative Thinking, Creative Doing - who gives great advice on the creative process, writing and art!
*Esther ~ Esther Rivero - who presents beautiful and poetic musings on life, love and art

Here are my 11 questions:
1. Why do you write/blog?
2. What's your favourite thing about writing/blogging?
3. What's your greatest ambition?
4. What's your greatest dream?
5. What's your all-time favourite book?
6. What's your favourite thing in the world to do?
7. Describe yourself in 3 words...? (or less!)
8. What's your ultimate creative indulgence?
9. Your motto on life?
10. What's the most important thing in your life?
11. What's your best characteristic? 

Feel free to partake guys, and to all bloggers reading - keep up the good work! 

~ Siobhán

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Writer's Survival Kit: Making a Literary Life

I've mentioned the book I'm currently reading on writing 'Making a Literary Life' by Carolyn See before, but now I just have to mention it again as it has saved me from a crippling block (and almost meltdown)! 

Yes dear readers, last night I was in the throes of lamenting the big bad block and so out of a need for self-consolation, I went to this writing guide to see if it could help me. (Usually while afflicted with writer's block, I can't bear to read someone else's theorising on writing - I prefer just to crawl into a corner and shrivel up until a bolt of returning words find and reawaken me again...) But no, last night, I thought I better take some action. 

And I can tell you - there hasn't been a funnier book written on writing! This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious. I love the author's casual light-hearted attitude she takes to the whole 'craft.' It's so fresh and new and bubbly and exciting. (I always approach writing 'guides' with a pinch of salt, hold them at a metaphorical arm's length just incase you know - their thesis does not sit entirely on par with mine - but this one, this one is so different!)

I headed to it in a frantic search looking for advice on writer's block (even though I goddamn know every last offering there is), but instead found solace in the scathing wit and humour she writes with on every page.

For example, on rejection, she is of the opinion that for every rejection slip we get back from publishers, we should send a thank-you note, just to dispel the inherent negativity that comes with such a knock-in-the-teeth. She speaks of editors as suitors for us writers to pursue and woo and as pre-programmed... plastic ducks: '...editors, playing 'hard to get' at every level, are programmed to act like those plastic ducks you used to see in 99-cent stores. Their little heads with their pink bills are set to wag back and forth: no, no, no, no, no. But the thing about those ducks was: With timing and concentration, you could put a drop of water on their bills, and from then on they'd nod yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! How do you get the duck to do that? It's certainly possible; it's part of the game.'

She has a point! They can be broke down, if we just approach them in the right way, at the right time. And if not, to not let ourselves get broken by their rejection. She then goes on to make the point that rejection (what we writers so fear) is a process, not an event, a process that must play out: 'So you send them a manuscript, and they send it back. Believe me, if you were Jesus Christ himself, they'd send it back."

She maintains that you write them a thank you note in return for their rejection slips and goes on to tell of a few of her own experiences in this aspect (very funny I might add!) The way to diffuse this rejection bad ju-ju is to send back a polite thank-you note that lets the editor in question know you have not 'died' from their dismissal but are simply carrying on the rejection/acceptance process of what she terms comically as 'cosmic badminton.' 

Haha! That's one way anyway to diffuse the whole mystique of approaching editors and to de-fang - even make light of - rejection!

She goes on in the next chapter about how to deal with success, if it comes and tackles the taboo subject of the writer's 'ego' on a very humorous basis: 

'Outside of having children, or dying, nothing more dramatic or life-changing can happen to you than to see your work in print. Oh, maybe winning the U.S. Open or the America's Cup, but I'm not sure about that, because those are fleeting moments, gone almost as soon as they happen. When you've something in print, even if it's a recipe for heirloom tomato aspic, you've bought a ticket in immortality's lottery. Part of you is floating in another universe, and until every last copy of whatever-it-is, is burned, smashed, and gone, you are, because of that little scrap, not bound by the rules of time. ...This is when your ego tends to go stark raving mad... You always suspected the world revolved around you, but your mother set you straight. By the time you got to kindergarten you realized there were other kids, that you were just one of many. But now, look! The proof is undeniable: Right there in the newspaper: 'Making Love Can Keep You Fit', and there's your name right underneath it! Or there, in the campus magazine: 'Adios Barcelona.' Nothing in the world is going to persuade you that there's anything more important than seeing your name in print - not the Ebola virus or World War Three or the love of your life.'

Well yes, there is no feeling quite like seeing your name in print, but her exaggerative qualities are what make the writing really hilarious here. She ratchets up the pride here just enough to pique familiarity as to amuse.  You'll find yourself sniggering along to her train of thought while reading. Here is jauntiness and fearlessness in the face of stereotypical pomp, - balls - for lack of another word. Most writers treat the craft so solemnly, especially when writing about it. This is a book on writing which talks in common sense and with a  wink-wink-nudge-nudge style effect as if saying - 'ah go on, admit it, this is how we writers really feel.' 

But she offers sound advice too. Like for example, when a piece of your work is published and you want others to read it, she advises to send them copies (even your enemies), because if you're relying on friends and family to rush out and read your stuff, it just ain't going to happen. They have their lives to get on with (point duly noted.) And besides, 'nobody could ever love your work enough. Have you heard the phrase 'That kid's got a face only a mother could love'? Your work is your child; you're the one who has to love it, even though it may still be a little funny-looking.' True enough. But nobody ever pointed it out to me like that before - thanks Carolyn!

Also, when confronted with someone who says they saw your piece in whatever, a reader so to speak  - don't, under any circumstances, ask them what they thought of it (for chances are, Carolyn notes, they'll say something you don't want to hear...) Instead, she advises to reply with the standard one-size-fits-all-situations answer 'No Kidding,' and smile politely. Let them say more if they want, but you just smile on regardless. What a gem! If  only I'd followed that advice before, I'd certainly be one or two critical insults down.

Most importantly, she also remarks that it doesn't matter what these people think of your work, whether they read it or do not - it only matters what publishers and editors think of it. After all, they are the ones controlling whether you can do it for a living or not. Exactly. (And again, advice I need to retain a vice-grip upon).

I am now into the second part of the book which deals with the techniques of writing and already it's still written with a humorous, original premise. Nothing predictable about this book! If you want to read a book on writing, I'd highly recommend this one. From laugh-out-loud observations to witty sarcasm to straight-up common sense do this-or-don't to lilting sweep-you-along romantic idealism, the authorial voice is always surprising yet relevant and right. And I suppose writing - the craft, the profession, the life - is made up of all these aspects too.

I'll end with her passage on beating discouragement in writing and in life (for the two are inexplicably woven together, are they not?) and being proactive:
"That's it, isn't it? Do we cry, or do we go out sailing? Do we eat dog food when we're poor and old, or do we make gourmet carrot soup? Do we sit on the couch or go out for a walk? Do we fall in love or make some poor bastard's life a living hell? Do we look out the window and groan about our wasted life, or do we make a plan to see if we can live our dream? Do we go through life asleep or try to wake up? 
I hope I'm wrong, but I imagine that about 90 percent of the human race is snoozing along, just going through the motions. And 100 percent of us dull out some of the time. It takes miracles, white magic, wonders, to jog us from our slumber. What if we really were masters of our mind and life? What if we were God-in-action? What would we do then? 
Everything we write is some kind of answer to that question."

Indeed. That's all I needed to know for now to get me back on the unblocked path. Thank you Carolyn.

~ Siobhán

Monday, 26 November 2012

Writer's Bane/Block (Part II)


Oh God. The dreaded 'b' word strikes again... But at least I'm in good company. So here I take Charles Bukowski's advice and write about writer's block - as it's better that than not writing anything at all.

Because writing nothing is not an option. If I go several days without writing anything, I feel hollow and emptied out. I don't feel right. And it's a horrible feeling. For writing puts me in tune with the world; without it I'm all out of tune, distanced, disembodied. 

Writer's block is a contentious issue among writers: some insist it doesn't exist and others swear by its debilitating powers. It's a bit of a taboo issue really. And lately, it's become a tired cliché.

But that's not to say it's not real.

Sometimes the block seems everlasting, other times fleeting. But one consistency it has is that it's not pleasant. And the longer it lingers, the worse it gets. Like fear in a way. It has to be nipped in the bud right away or else it festers. (Hmm, I wish I could take this advice I'm writing - I'm so far into the block's chronic clutches at this stage...)

Of what I know about writer's block - it is deeply personal and specific. Writers get blocked for different reasons - the easy kind of block being the one which involves the story, a plot question or such. The worst is the psychological block - what if I'm not good enough? The crippling self-doubt that can paralyze a writer.

But I think John Rogers has it right - that it's a 'thinking' block more than anything else; and that the only way out of it is to write. 

If that's true, then here's my first attempt to write out of it. 

Anyone else out there suffer from writer's block? Care to share your stories, fears, remedies...?? 

for now, 

~ Siobhán 

'You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block. ~ John Rogers

'Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.' ~ Lili St Crow

Writing about writer's block is better than not writing at all.' ~ Charles Bukowski

'Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: "Fool!" said my muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write.' ~ Sir Philip Sidney 

'All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?' ~ Philip Pullman

'What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ … And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.' ~ Maya Angelou

'There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.' ~Terry Pratchett

'Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.' ~ Norman Mailer

'I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.' ~ Francoise Sagan

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Why so Blue?

'The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of colour. Our entire being is nourished by it.' - Hans Hoffmann

What's your favourite colour?? Bet your bottom dollar you say blue? Seems blue is the preferred colour of most people. The New York Times ran this really interesting article on our fascination with the colour blue a few weeks ago (you can read it here: which got me to thinking a little about, Why is it such an important colour? And almost everyone's favourite? And as a fan of blue myself, it got me to wondering just why we are so taken with it.
Maybe it's because it is so multi-faceted. There's so many different varieties of blue. So many shades: cerulean, turquoise, lapis lazuli, cobalt, ultramarine, aquamarine, duck egg, midnight blue, electric blue, baby blue. (And artists out there will add more!) There are as many shades of blue as there are associations with blue.

Blue is all-inclusive. Blue is worldly. Blue is celestial, ethereal. Blue is the colour of creativity. The colour of uncertainty. Oceanic depths. Sorrow. Moodiness. Infinity.  Smoky jazz. The proverbial blues.

In colour psychology, blue is the colour of calmness. Studies have found that people feel calmer in surroundings with blue hues than in those with brighter colours like red and yellow. Blue is relaxing. Just think of all those tropical blue ocean holiday resorts. As well as a mood soother, it is also the colour of trust and loyalty. Did you know that being referred to as 'true blue' means that you are dependable and trustworthy and committed fully to something? 

Feeling 'blue' is a well known euphemism for feeling sad, down in the dumps, under the weather. But why? Where did it come from?  There are several suggestions - the first comes from many old deepwater sailing ship traditions of flying a blue flag if the captain or any of the officers died. Others suggest that because blue is next in line to black on the colour spectrum it was as such  linked to depression and fear. Of course 'the blues' also refers to the popular music genre that exemplifies this feeling. It originated in African-American communities of the Deep South in America around the end of the 19th century, the rhythmic songs of workers eventually becoming known as the 'blues' as they expressed deep melancholy and woes.

The 20th century's most famous artist Picasso took this idea to a new level with his infamous 'blue period'. It marked a period in his art when after a friend died from suicide, he started painting in all blues to mark his sadness. The paintings from this period are all lamentative portraits, his most famous being The Old Guitarist. For him, blue was the colour of sadness and depression, a sort of absence of colour to depict a mournful view of the world. The blue period saw many of Picasso's greatest portraits, mostly of solitary figures set against almost empty backgrounds, the blue palette imparting a mood of melancholy and desolation to images that suggest unhappiness and dejection, poverty, despondency, and despair. Most prevalent among his subjects were the old, the destitute, the blind, the homeless, and the otherwise underprivileged outcasts of society.

Maybe this came from the fact that blue is the colour of cold, of ice, of snow. A cold body turns blue. Blue is the colour of the absence of life. To be called 'blue-blooded' is to be portrayed as a cold, uncaring person. But blue is also nothing if not contradictory. 

It can relate to sadness yes, but also happiness. Bluebirds for example, are a famous symbol of happiness. The song 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' is partly responsible for this: 'where happy little bluebirds sing...' And you can't talk about blue and artists without mentioning Marc Chagall, the Russian Expressionist painter. He used blue in most of his later paintings - it became such a defining and important aspect of his work. And the blue he used doesn't appear melancholy or mournful (although he started to use it more fully after his wife Bella died)- but romantic, dreamlike, spiritual, surreal, emotional, enchanting. It is even referred to now as 'Chagallian blue' so famous and unique to him has it become -  a blue of love, of dreams, of intense emotion, of the soul: 'But perhaps my art is the art of a lunatic, I thought, mere glittering quicksilver, a blue soul breaking in upon my pictures.'

Blue is mysterious. Deep. The ocean is blue. Blue is the colour of the unknown: the fathomless depths of the ocean, the highest reaches of sky. Blue is in the ether around us. Actually when I picture 'ether' I picture blue, a deep dark blue. To me, creativity is blue. That spark of inspiration like the blue at the centre of a flame. And great creative ideas (and most random things) come 'out of the blue', that mysterious place/space of infinite miraculous resources.  

Blue is rarity. Ask any gardener about growing blue flowers and they'll answer that the PH of the soil needs to be specially adapted, that only the more seasoned gardeners grow blue flowers successfully. Think about it - there aren't that many blue flowers (and all the more beautiful they are). A blue moon is the term used to describe a rare second full moon in one month. And just look at the sensation Elvis's blue suede shoes caused! 

Blue is the colour of the sky, of endless possibility (did you know 'blue sky thinking' refers to outside-the-box creative thinking?). Blue is the colour of the horizon, the big beyond. 'Blueprints' are the name given to detailed etchings and plans.  Blue gives a feeling of distance. Artists use it to to show perspective. This is a good way to understand the energy of the color blue - it allows us to look beyond and increase our perspective outward. And blue is the colour of energy itself - of electricity. It crackles with power.

Blue is the colour of many beautiful things: blue butterflies, peacocks, skies, sapphires, water, eyes. Blue eyes are the most sought after colour of eyes all around the world. Brown is the dominant colour, blue is more rare - only around 8% of the world's population have blue eyes (which may explain the rise in popularity of blue contact lenses. Doctors in California have even come up with a new revolutionary laser treatment that can make eyes blue - by literally zapping the pigment from them...) 

Oh and, blue eyes are also associated with innocence. The phrase 'blue-eyed-boy' or 'blue-eyed-girl' is the name given to someone who can do no wrong, who is wholly pure and innocent and sweet. (And on the contrary once again, we have 'blue movies' which refer to the X-rated kind...)

But maybe blue is so pleasing to us as it's an ever-shifting colour. Oceans look blue from far away but when you're wading in them, they're more grey or translucent. Skies, the same. The blue colour we see of skies is only a reflection from the earth's atmosphere, it is not really there. When it comes to blue eyes, the blue colour is really the absence of colour - brown eyes and green eyes are pigmented, blue eyes have no pigment. (Note how babies always have blue eyes when born, but then they change.) Maybe it's because blue is sort of an illusion, a colour only half-there that it so fixes us? 

But how can it be half there? It is so intense a colour. Ever seen a piece of cobalt paper in a lab? Squeeze cerulean blue paint from a tube onto a canvas? Blue is at once natural and unnatural; basic and breath-taking. 

For me, blue is my talisman colour to enhance creativity. My lap-top is a shiny opalescent turquoise blue, my Word files are bordered in blue, my notebooks - maybe all this stems from using blue biro, blue ink to write with. Turquoise, indeed, is the blue gemstone to enhance creativity. The colour of our throat chakra or communicative energy space is blue and so turquoise resonates with that. Blue is the colour of communication.

It is also the colour of the spiritual and celestial. Lapis lazuli stone was often considered to have magical elements. The Archangel Michael resonates with the dark blue colour of this stone. The ancient Egyptians used lapis lazuli to represent Heaven, with its dark blue colour and gold flecks. In the Catholic religion, the Virgin Mary wears blue and the colour has become exclusively associated with her. Blue, blue-green, and green are sacred colors in Iran where they symbolize paradise In India, paintings of the god Krishna often depict him as having blue skin. In Greece the color blue is believed to ward off the evil eye. Indigo, a deep blue, is the colour of our third eye chakra, the portal to our spiritual consciousness.

Blue is not an earthy colour - we do not eat blue, (well, apart from blueberries, which are technically more purple in tone). But no, we don't consume any blue foods. But it is an everyday colour. Apart from the presence of it in the sky it's popular in clothing - blue jeans have become an iconic fashion statement of the modern age. They are the symbol of casualness, hard-working, tough, take-it-easy lifestyle. In contrast to the phrase 'blue-collar' which refers to the more upper end of society. Blue is the colour of airmail and of post-boxes in America (maybe because of the sky?) In Ireland, you'll be met by a bright blue sign announcing the name of each street.

To artists, blue is a true colour - 'Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones... it will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red when darkened becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another color - pink.' -Raoul Dufy, (French Fauvist Painter, 1877-1953.)
'Blueness doth express trueness ' - the poet Ben Jonson said, and art historian John Ruskin noted that, 'Blue colour is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.'

A source of delight - yes that's it! Blue is a constant source of delight. From the sky to turquoise jewellery to blue LED lights, to my own personal favourite - bubblegum ice-cream (yum!). It is the colour of the natural world, the celestial world, beauty and dreams and truth. 

Is blue your favourite colour? If so, why? Are they any other associations you have with blue?

I'll leave you with Joni Mitchell's song 'Blue' (so many songs too with blue in their title!) sung here by Sarah MacLachlan.