People have fixated on the New York sky of 9/11, as if such a perfect, crystalline sky could not have produced such horror. I love that September blue that I might find in the Mediterranean or faraway islands: deep and saturated of color, yet transparent, both a well of feeling and container of emptiness. It’s like peering deep into a jewel, a sapphire, only to spin in its possibility, its sparkle of life. That Henri Matisse anointed the North American atmosphere as special — “so dry, so crystalline, like no other” — seals it. It’s a verifiable wonder.
And yet, the skyscrapers that Matisse saw tapering upward until they assumed the quality of light crumbled in that sky, severed by hijacked planes in that sky.
As we look upward with our confusion, the sky will be clear, light shimmering as it catches little particles. It has blinked and renewed itself.
Matisse looked up and saw, in his 1944 cut-out, Icarus falling from the sky with a shattered red heart. It was World War II, a pilot was falling from the lumunious blue sky. The sky then renewed itself.
Simone Weil said of the sea: ships are wrecked and sailors are drowned. The sea causes grief. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.