In the holly bush, long after the red berries, Christmas lights and snow are gone, imprudently too low to the ground, a robin has laid four blue eggs in a perfect symmetrical whorl. She guards them fiercely from storms and voyeurs, and she scolds me if I approach. These eggs are just outside the window, so near where I recline to watch vexing contradictions on the TV between tedious staged comedies and the news, tragedies unfolding in distant lands. If I would turn slightly, open the blind, and lift the sash, I might easily admire her jewels when she would allow it: every other Tuesday by appointment. I might climb through the sill and curl up alongside her blue.
I won’t insult you by describing this blue as you know it, vividly, from your childhood. One of your first and lasting memories, unlike any other event, you remember when your father picked you up to peer into the nest. Or maybe it was an aunt, a big sister, someone you trusted to grab you by the middle, under your little ribs, and heft you high to view a quiet marvel. It was someone you knew that if they said, “Look,” the sight was bound to be remarkable, not to be missed, essential for your comprehension of the world.
You know this blue, as azurine as you first love’s eyes – but not quite. This is a flimsy presumption. This blue doesn’t fit her celestial gems mined from the sky – electric, brilliantly clear, uncompromising, the purity of an ideal. The blue of the robin’s eggs is from the earth and might as well be an ochre or umber. And there’s the faulty assumption that blue eyes are prettier and usually paired with blonde hair. Your first love’s eyes were brown, a burnt sienna, and more fetching than any sapphire.
(Though my mother’s hair was black, her eyes were blue. She was crazy – loony and violently so. The depths of her blue at the height of paranoia, those weeks before and after the judge committed her to the state hospital and later her Thorazine-thick stay in the slightly less draconian but impossibly more expensive psych ward at Mount Carmel Hospital – that blue – was terrifying. So you see, you must be wary of blue. Discernment in everything blue is critical.)
Certainly, I could label her eggs as “cerulean” which is close to the pale blue of a clear summer’s day, or which is nearly a baby blue like what young mothers presume for a boy’s room until he decides that the color is a stereotype of pigment, a color of gender expectation. And I’ll be blunt and point out the complication: cerulean blue is not baby blue. Baby blue, a paint from a can at the hardware store, is artificially, well, sweeter – sugary, a wince making the teeth hurt. Cerulean from the artist’s tube has a suggestion of garishness, a small portion of regret. It is older, wiser, a bit jaded. And I doubt the most skilled artist could mix cerulean with another color on the palette to replicate the robin’s eggs. So, never mind.
I think you know any imitation is not the wonder. I refuse to be clever, marketing a brand-new-and-improved Robin Egg Blue: eye shadow, a frozen drink at the fair, a shiny car in the showroom, or a child’s crayon. Periwinkle is close enough. That pretention would wring all the mystery from the robin’s small miracles.