Wednesday, January 13, 2016


From Maggie Nelson, Bluets:
7. But what kind of love is it, really? Don't fool yourself and call it sublimity. Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of powdered ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt a stinging desire. But to do what? Liberate it? Purchase it? Ingest it? There is so little blue food in nature--in fact blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid (mold, poisonous berries)--that culinary advisers generally recommend against blue light, blue paint, and blue plates when and where serving food. But while the color may sap appetite in the most literal sense, it feeds it in others. You might want to reach out and disturb the pile of pigment, for example, first staining your fingers with it, then staining the world. You might want to dilute it and swim in it, you might want to rouge your nipples with it, you might want to paint a virgin's robe with it. But still you wouldn't be accessing the blue of it. Not exactly.
63. Generally speaking I do not hunt blue things down, nor do I pay for them. The blue things I treasure are gifts, or surprises in the landscape. The rocks I dug up this summer in the north country, for example, each one mysteriously painted round its belly with a bright blue band. The little square junk of navy blue dye you brought me long ago, when we barely knew each other, folded neatly into a paper wrapper.
106. When I first heard of the cyanometer, I imagined a complicated machine with dials, cranks, and knobs. But what de Saussure actually "invented" was a cardboard chart with 53 cut-out squares sitting alongside 53 numbered swatches, or "nuances," as he called them, of blue: you simply hold the sheet up to the sky and match its color, to the best of your ability, to a swatch. As in Humboldt's Travels (Ross, 1852): "We beheld with admiration the azure colour of the sky. Its intensity at the zenith appeared to correspond to 41 [degrees] of the cyanometer." This latter sentence brings me great pleasure, but really it takes us no further--either into knowledge, or into beauty.
See also #170 and 226, only I am too lazy to retype them!

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