Every summer of my childhood my family would rent a small seaside cottage in the quaint town of Truro in Cape Cod. I suppose that there were many things that lured us to the shores of this small town—ancient lighthouses, warm sand, renowned clam chowder, rural comfort—but, in my eyes, the sole, undeniable attraction could only be the sea. Everything about the ocean water captivated me; it was powerful but soothing, refreshing but unyielding, comforting but mysterious. Above all, I was mesmerized by the sea’s profoundly deep blue hue. The color blue made the water opaque and wondrous, and its depth was both remote and seductive, evoking an azure abyss in which my imagination could run wild. The waves feverishly excited my nerves, but the entrancing blue soothed me into a state of calm reverie; I dreamt of mermaids and schools of fish, wondered about how tall I would grow and when I would fall in love, and envisioned my future self with my future husband in my future house all throughout glorious shades of blue.
The color blue has the capacity to evoke “immediate feeling” (Gage); blue can act as a visual stimulus, evoking such feelings as nostalgia and melancholy and propelling the viewer into their dreams and memories. For me, blue will always be intrinsically connected to my memories of the sea and, as memories often do, will induce a nostalgia that is both calming and melancholic. I cannot remember the last time I visited Truro, it’s been years since I’ve set foot in the magnificent blue of the sea, I no longer dream of mermaids, I’ve grown to a meager 5’ 3’’ and have already fallen in and out of love, and the future seems ominously less infinite. When I see blue (in the painting above the fireplace, on the sweater hanging on the chair) the sea momentarily rushes back to me and I can feel the deep blue against my pale thighs, I remember those azure reveries, and I can see that infinite abyss beyond the shore. This sensation always reminds me of a passage from Nabokov’s Lolita when Humbert Humbert suddenly sees his “dead bride” reincarnated when he meets Lolita:
…a blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses….The twenty-five years I had lived since then tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished. (Nabokov 39)
Not only does Humbert Humbert experience a flashing memory of his love by the sea, but he feels as though his heart has been infused with a “blue sea-wave;” the blue is both a melancholic reminder of what he has lost and a celebration of what he has momentarily regained.
Although I will surely feel the sea again and undoubtedly see blue, I know I will never experience the blue Truro waters as I did in the past, but only in the momentary flashes that vision and memory provide. Blue is simultaneously soothing and heartrending, peaceful and melancholic, reassuring and disheartening. Blue is profoundly linked to the sea, memory, and melancholy; its presence brings ashore an easy rush of emotion and then retracts and recedes into infinite depths, leaving its viewer’s in a state of melancholic tranquility.