What Colour is Happiness?

👤Joanne Campbell 🕔Apr 02, 2014

Driving home from work I travel the back road; it’s long and straight with fallow fields fringed with forest on either side. The way rises ahead of me, disappearing in the distance as it turns a corner at the top of the far-off hill. Today, the sun is warm, the sky is wide open, the radio—and the news—is off.

Suddenly, I glimpse a flash on the upside of the wide ditch: a brilliant swatch of blue sky skips and swoops in the air along the fence line. Then another! And another! Either the sky is falling… or the bluebirds are back.

Blue is the colour of happiness.

In 1908, Maurice Maeterlinck of Belgium wrote L’Oiseau Bleu (The Bluebird of Happiness). In this Nobel Prize-winning play, the son and daughter of a poor woodcutter are sent out by a fairy to search the world for the Bluebird of Happiness. On their quest, they learn to respect their environment and cherish their elders, and discover that life’s greatest joy is found in the journey, not the destination, the search, not the reward. Ultimately, material happiness can’t compare to the warmth and happiness to be found in one’s own home.

Of course, I only learned of Maeterlinck’s play when I started to research bluebirds for this piece. My pleasure in seeing bluebirds is pure and simple, but I must say that reading the moral of this story adds to my happiness—as any ideology that conforms to my own beliefs is wont to do.  

We’re all about respecting our environment and cherishing our elders. As our readers know, travelling is fun, interesting, mind-expanding, but even though the journey is the most interesting part of the trip, the best place to unpack is home, making it the exception to the rule about journeys and destinations.

The colour of unhappiness?  I don’t know; does news have a colour?

The news is usually on in my car or on the TV, online forums, Facebook feeds and e-newsletters. It constantly alerts me to potential threats to our environment, that access to healthcare is under attack, jobs are either scarce or of the wrong kind, quality education is either too hard to find or too expensive to afford. Marinating my poor adrenal glands in a media-fed stew of global climate change, arctic vortexes and 100-year droughts, mysterious oil leaks and fracking earthquakes, exploding oil cars, genetically modified who-knows-what’s-next, and close encounters with rogue asteroids—well, it can take a toll on one’s sense of humour.

And then, a bluebird. A bluebird is just the ticket to get me off the depression train and onto a flight to hope.

This issue of Northword is positively full of positivity. Oh sure, you’ll read about some of the issues we have in the North surrounding airshed quality, recycling and food security, but in those stories you’ll also see how those issues are being addressed. Plus, you can learn where the wild things are (bear-watching, anyone?), how to make your own cheese (confess, you’ve always wanted to), and—in Brian Smith’s column, On the Fly, our newest addition to Northword—get tips on fly-fishing our northern rivers.

And if you want to go straight to hope, go to Greg Horne’s article on energy alternatives: How three innovative communities are re-thinking energy. You’ll learn about northern communities that are heating with biomass or bacteria, and converting trashed plastic to oil. It’s amazing, heartening stuff: almost as good as the first bluebird of spring.


To learn more about the lovely mountain bluebird, check out the article by John Franken. And turn the news off, for a little while.