You see this picture a lot in southern Europe. It's a pointer for pilgrims walking the age-old Camino trails that head to Santiago Cathedral in northwest Spain. Pilgrims trudge the paths for weeks on end, seeking enlightenment, calm, and uplifting encounters with strangers. They find challenge, too, when the weather's horrible and the next stop is still miles away. The Camino delivers all the intensity of life compressed into thousands of steps. I've done only 180 kilometres of it - long enough for me, but immensely satisfying. Afterwards, I found this pilgrim's mark on a road in Chartres, France, about 600 kilometres from the Spanish border. It's a reminder that when pilgrims head off into the blue, they're in it for the long haul...
Given the blueness of clear skies it's amazing that blue was once barely recognized as a color at all. Most of our ancient ancestors were not blue-savvy at all.
Early cave paintings were all painted in colors that came from the earth – ochre, red, black and white. In Australia there are no aboriginal words for blue. I’ve read a comment from an early missionary to New Zealand who wondered (wrongly) if Maori could even see blue.
Though Egyptians used a brilliant blue pigment in their art, Romans thought it was ugly and barbaric – probably because it was painted on the faces of their bitter enemies, the Celts.
In Rome blue-eyed women were seen as harlots. Blue-eyed men were mocked and jeered at.
Eventually blue began to tiptoe into European art. Lapis lazuli, imported from Afghanistan, was ground into one of the most pure and expensive paints ever created, typically used for the Madonna’s veil in Renaissance art because only blue was good enough for someone so pure.
Woad and then indigo became available for dying fabrics.
Finally, blue became the color the world adored. And we like it still - in colour preference surveys worldwide it's always number one.
"Blue represents the basic nature of all beings, like a cloudless sky. That blue we see when we look high up – that’s who we are. When we rest in the natural energy of our mind, doubt and hesitation evaporate and we can experience that goodness. Like the sky, it’s empty, therefore it can accommodate everything. Hesitating about who we really are or hanging out with the wrong friends – whether they are people or the negativity in our mind – is like the clouds. We see clouds and take them to be real, but behind the clouds the sun is shining, illuminating the world. “
From Ruling Your World,
by Buddhist teacher