Did you know that blue is an anomaly in nature? While banding a bluebird many years ago, I learned that most critters we think of as "blue" only appear blue. It's optical tomfoolery- birds' blue feathers, insects' blue wings, even blue eyes only seem blue. They contain no blue pigment. Their blue is purely a function of specialized frameworks and the scattering of light. If you pulverize a blue feather, it will no longer appear blue because its tiny reflective structures have been damaged. It will look gray or brownish. Contrast that with beets- they remain red when crushed because their color comes from pigment.
Nature produces only a wee handful of blue pigments. A few minerals, such as lapis lazuli, azurite, and cobalt, can be ground to create blue pigment. True blue dyes can be conjured from a minute number of plants like woad (Isatis tinctoria) and true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). Historically, painters know blue as the rarest and most expensive of colors. Most of the blue dyes and pigments we use today are synthesized.
Now let's talk indigo. While ordinary blue occupies the range of 450-495 nanometers on the visible spectrum, indigo blue's eye-catching allure dwells between 440 and 450 nanometers. It varies in color from deep blue to blue-violet and has been significant in human culture for at least 5,000 years. The mantle of the Virgin Mary, Egyptian mummy linens, and the Hindu God Krishna's clothing, have often been depicted as indigo blue. In several Eastern religions, indigo is the color of the 6th chakra, the "third-eye." It is said to be the color of wisdom, intuitive knowledge, and transformation. Indigo is considered a bridge between heaven and earth.
Indigo conveys integrity. It makes us feel calm, yet vibrantly strong. If you're affected by a prevalence of negativism and fear-mongering, it may be time to roll out the indigo. Or maybe scarlet, turquoise, and chartreuse. Whatever colors suit you. Choosing to be surrounded by color, grace, and dynamism in discordant times is empowering. It invigorates our senses and emboldens our creativity. It makes the muses frisky. And that's where real magic happens.
Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. Her abstract landscape paintings cultivate connection to the lands she explores.
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