If you were to say to my sister: “Hey, I just saw a bluebird!” She would say to you: “Bluebirds are not blue. They are gray.”
“Nooooo,” you would insist. “I just saw a bird. The bird was blue. Hence…bluebird.”
“Gray,” my sister would assure you. “Bluebirds are gray.”
This can be highly frustrating. At this point, you may be wanting to shove my sister in front of a speeding bus. Probably there will not be a speeding bus near enough to suit your urge.
Here is the deal: my sister suffers from a rare malady called “reads everything she gets her hands on.” Somewhere along the line, she read an article about bluebirds that (pun intended) brought to light the fact that bluebird feathers should appear gray. Instead, light refracts off air pockets and cells within the feathers in a manner that sends only blue wavelengths to our eyes.
My sister is technically correct. Bluebirds are gray until struck by direct light. But I am still of a mind that when I see something that registers as blue in my eye—it is blue. Also, as a point of fact, all of the colors we perceive are really those which are rejected by objects. In that regard, nothing is the color we perceive.
I apologize, at this point, for calling bluebirds “objects.” Bluebirds are more than that. For one thing, they are blue. And they are birds. Two of my two favorite things, right there.
Also, this far north, bluebirds are the first certain sign of spring.
Yesterday, I saw the first bluebird of the year. A pair of them. Male and female. Throughout the afternoon, the pair delicately danced along the rails of the fence surrounding my house. The male shone blue as an energized Christmas light.
Last year, I saw my first bluebird on March 12.
Spring, a week earlier.
Photo: Elaine R. Wilson