Bluebirds present an odd dichotomy. The animal is a symbol for happiness, while we associate the color blue with sadness.
You probably haven’t thought much about it. I didn’t.
In 2010, I used the interlibrary loan system at Sarah Lawrence College to get a copy of Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happinessby Ariel Gore to read. I’d found the book on Goodreads, and fairly new to reading nonfiction for fun, I placed the book on my to-read list.
When I got the book, the opening page caught my attention. Ariel Gore talks about receiving a small bluebird figuring from her paternal grandmother at age nine. Her grandmother explained that the bluebird stood for happiness. Gore writes about her reaction:
I turned it over in my hand. “Why?” I asked. I already learned that the color blue represented sadness.
My grandmother smiled at me, then frowned. “Ariel,” she said. “You ask too many questions. A nice young lady doesn’t ask so many questions.”
The opening vignette stuck with me, so much so that when Sara Bareilles released her 2010 album “Kaleidoscope Heart” I immediately noticed the name of the thirteenth track: “Bluebird.”
The song opens somberly with the end of a relationship.
Word came through in a letter,
One of us changing our minds.
You won’t need to guess who, since I usually do,
Not send letters to me that are mine.
While the relationship is at its end, it’s not entirely unexpected to the narrator. Still, Bareilles sings about the mask the narrator wears, saying she’s “fine” when she’s really not ready to part ways.
The chorus sounds like an encouraging chant, reminding the narrator to “let him go,” but it’s in the second verse that I was drawn back to the scene from Gore’s book.
This pair of wings worn and rusted,
From too many years by my side
They can carry me, swear to be,
Sturdy and strong but see,
Turning them on still means goodbye
There’s a bittersweetness in the imagery of having to move on in order to find happiness. The song doesn’t ruminate on the relationship. It doesn’t mull over firsts and lasts and tipping points, it focuses on what’s next for the singer and her needing to find her strength before she takes off in the final notes of the song.
Ready to fly,
You and I,
Here we go
Here we go
(Song recommendation by Lauren Busser)