Between 7000 and 10,000 Kelvin, a flame blazes blue. But this is only my most recent understanding of blue blazes.
The earliest comes from my grandmother, who was also ignorant of anything in Kelvin. Her simile “It’s as hot as blue blazes out there” was reserved for the hottest days of Florida’s August, when temperatures between 7000 and 10,000 Kelvin actually seemed possible. It was always preceded by an exclamation, like “goodness gracious” or “heavens to Betsy,” idioms of equally unknown origin; and it was always pronounced in a Southern drawl, a leftover from our family’s post-bellum days in Georgia, something in our blood that even the Florida mosquitoes could not drain.
As I grew older, though, I realized that Florida does blaze blue. Caribbean blue on kichy beach towels, or chlorinated blue in roadside waterparks, or plastic blue in the rooftop tarps after a hurricane. But it also blazes the electric blue of dragonflies, and the slate blue of mosquitoes’ vicious eyes, and the cobalt blue of scales on armadillos. The northern springs cooly boil the aquifer of turquoise blue while the oceans churn like stonewashed denim. The sky before a summer shower blazes a leaden blue and moves like a coffin lid sliding closed.
To tourists, Florida may be the emerald green peninsula jutting off of the bottom right of a map, or the exuberant yellow of the personified sun, with his oversized white gloves and thick black sunglasses. But Florida is blue. And it can be as hot as blue blazes here.
Cameron Hunt McNabb is an Assistant Professor of English in Lakeland, FL and is a fourth-generation Florida native. She has published with the Tampa Review Online, Deep South, Neutron Protons, and Creative Loafing. Much of her work focuses on her home state.