I’ve been writing about blue as if it is only a color, and yet there is another way we talk about blue. Perhaps more than any other color, blue is associated with feeling. I’m not sure where along the lines blue started being an emotion but it’s ingrained in our understanding of this color of light. Red is a symbol of anger of course, and green is associated with envy, but we don’t use those words directly to discuss how we are. “I am blue,” we say, embodying the color.
As the week wears on, one afternoon I feel a twinge of blue in my heart, distracting me from the winding path where my feet are walking. It is the feeling of distance from my love, who is back East, wandering the grid of New York City. I am fortunate that this blue I’m feeling is not the deep, penetrating sort that led Pablo Picasso into his Blue Period of painting for three years. I will finish our expedition on the trail and will stop writing daily essays and maps of blue. This feeling of mine can’t even really be classified as sadness, just an awareness of his absence in my day. Blue is the measurement of our being apart, the shape of the air between us. I rarely say the words “I miss you” because I am happy to be where I am, but for an hour or two in the afternoon I notice this soft tide of melancholy.
In the evening, after veering off the trail, we bike towards the mountains and after a beer at the Midnight Sun Brewery, we decide to climb Flat Top Mountain, the classic hike outside of Anchorage. We begin ascending at 8:30 p.m. with plenty of daylight left. I have been entranced by the light in Alaska, though it discombobulates my sense of time. It doesn’t get completely dark until after midnight and twilight leaks into the sky around 4 a.m. I’ve never been this far north and though my flight out of Seattle left after dark and landed here in Anchorage after sunset, in the air en route I could see the glowing orb of the sun casting perpetual daylight for those farther north. Now as we move up the mountain, scaling rocks, we gain altitude quickly.
It’s only an hour and a half to the top, an invigorating charge to panoramic views. It’s 10 p.m. and every direction I look, I see blue. The saturated navy shadows of the mountains, their peaks and valleys carved by glaciers, the satiny haze of the horizon, sky and clouds falling into ocean, fog and mountains persisting even farther in the distance. I feel lifted by the view and wind at the summit, shedding the earlier ache. There is something spectacular about being able to step away from the closeness of the quotidian, to feel the scope of the landscape, the air and spaciousness of seeing far away from me. At the peak of this mountain I dissolve into the blue air around me, surrender to the color and altitude. Here, I find that the feeling of blue isn’t just longing and sadness. It is also the feeling of abandoning myself, even if just until I return back to sea level.