It’s amazing the difference A bit of sky can make. — Shel Silverstein
In the 1965 movie A Patch of Blue, blind teenager Selina D’Arcy burrows her bare toes in the grass at the neighborhood park and begs her grandfather to describe what green is like. Blinded at age five when her mother threw chemicals at her face, the only color Selina remembers from the elusive days of her seeing self is a fleeting bit of sky. “I remember about blue. The sky’s blue, ain’t it?”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Selina remembered the sky. She’d known only poverty, and life with a sadistic, prostitute mother and an alcoholic grandfather. Our guess is that in her sighted years she might have gazed as often as possible into that mysterious blue dome, out of some innate spiritual reflex, into that salvific realm the ancients recognized as the connector between this hard material world and the transcendent one beyond it.
My own earliest memory is also of the sky, of myself on the front lawn in a pale blue organdy dress at no more than age three. I was trying to locate the source of a sound I heard coming from the impossibly cerulean Colorado sky, probably an airplane. Though I didn’t find the plane, the sky itself suddenly captivated me—its depth, its enormity, the intensity of that color. In that moment my childlike mind captured what I would later “understand” as something like eternity. I knew absolutely, right then, that a never-ending being beyond myself existed, and that I, like that being, would go on forever.
This isn’t coincidence either. In their vulnerability, their humility, the spirits of children are porous, unconsciously attuned to complex realities big people don’t know how to teach them. In that brief moment in the front yard at age three, I received with ease something theologians write books about. No experience of my life has been more authoritative in stirring consciousness about my own encapsulation within the mystery we call infinity.
The sky’s blue, ain’t it? There is a portal of hope for us all. In the year ahead, when we’re small within life’s tricky largeness, all that may be needful is remembering a patch of blue.
(Painting by Magritte)