Monday, April 7, 2014

Beauty is...

Sometimes it is easy to see beauty. A brightly colored bloom. The sparkle of a bride. A freshly arrived newborn baby. A dazzling sunset. We know where to look for this sort of universally acknowledged beauty. That doesn't make them any less beautiful, but they are expected.

Other times, I need to look a little more carefully. I need to train my eyes not to move so quickly. I need to pause and observe and marinate. The world holds beauty that, while less obvious, is no less stunning.

A stark winter day: Its crisp lines and shades of black and white. Its state of suspended animation, as if the whole earth is holding its breath in anticipation of a spring that will burst forth. It speaks of that moment when what's coming is known and desired, but cannot be rushed. The vibrant flower will come, we know this, but at the expense of that breathless waiting. There is beauty in savoring that delicious sense of expectancy.

Commitment: Brides glow, but even more breathtaking is watching the vows spoken, promising to be husband and wife, unfolding into days and years and a lifelong commitment. Two people weathering life, side by side, good days and difficult, holds an even more timeless beauty in its many details as the wedding day when those promises were shiny and new. Life has shown me, again and again, that it is far from easy to maintain, much less grow, deep commitment. When the fragility and vulnerability of marriage has been exposed, as I have watched marriages unravel and struggled to make sense of it from outside its circle, the beauty of a lasting commitment has started to feel like a rare and priceless work of art.

Old hands: I have marveled over newborns. They are miraculous, these wee humans. The birth of a new family is precious. It is easy to overlook the other end of the timeline, to dismiss the years of winding back down, no longer new. But I remember, with startling clarity, my Gram's hands. They were simultaneously rough from hard work and soft as butter. They were wrinkled and the knuckles were gnarled. Their beauty showed careworn, loving and raising and growing up two generations of offspring. They were not new and unblemished by time, but had a beauty created over the span of an entire life.

Storm clouds: Sunsets, and to some degree, sunrises receive an awful lot of attention. The sun paints the sky with layers of color, gentle to start the day, blazing at its finish. When clouds build, it's so easy to miss the sunlight, to wish and watch for its return, lamenting the diffused grey as dismal. If I change my perspective, though, there is beauty in the dimension of the storms as they roll in. The clouds billow and darken. Like the sun, their rains are necessary to sustain life. Their silvers and charcoals and purples and blues are a different sort of beauty, but no less so than their pastel and fiery cousins.

There are so many ways to view the world. So many details to miss if I focus only on the obvious beauties. Beauty is more than surface value. Beauty can be found in more subtle variations. It may require effort or a change in attitude. It will not demand attention. It doesn't need to seen. It will not wait patiently until it is noticed. Beauty is a fleeting gift given a thousand times a day, but the only way to possess it is to choose to seek it out, to be still and show it profound appreciation to allow it to astound and amaze.

For the days I want to write but need that extra push, and, just as much, for the days when the prompt inspires me, all on its own, whether I need extra motivation or not.

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