Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seeing And Seeking What's Beautiful

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Today's the first day of Spring, and it's come dressed in its usual March colors and fabrics:  gray, blustery, drizzly wet, and chilly.

But this morning a thought - a wish - has been gently germinating in my mind.  A thought that just wants to flower.  The thought was sparked by this comment made by Guy Finley at our class on Sunday (I paraphrase what he said):

"Did you ever think that all around you God has placed something of extraordinary beauty, and that he has placed it there just for you?  That small flower peeking out from under the leaves?  That special gleam of the sunshine off the tree's leaves?  Yet, how often are you paying attention to these gifts God gives you?  He weeps at how you just ignore them, while lost in your own small, small worlds of thought."

That thought has stuck with me for the last few days.  Guy's comment was both an admonishment and an encouragement to work to become more aware, more present to the bigger world we're meant to live in.

Coincedentally (or perhaps not!), I also read an article this morning talking about the same wish.  Jennifer Pastiloff, a California yoga instructor, wrote about her wish to "Become A Beauty Hunter" (link to her blog below)

Become A Beauty Hunter

"What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by?  What if we became beauty hunters?" (Jennifer Pastiloff)

Jennifer described her "Five Most Beautiful Things" Project.  She tried to stop every hour and notice five beautiful things around her, trying to notice what she normally overlooked.

And so this morning, I've been trying to do that.  Stopping every hour to hunt for the beauty around me, and to notice what gifts God has placed in the moment, just for me, as Guy said.  Here's what I found (though I wasn't tied to finding five)

8:18 am

  • Sitting on my desk, the latest letter from my mother.  I can't think of a stronger expression of true love than that expressed through her familiar, small scribbles and the playful confetti shamrocks she sprinkled in the envelope.  Even though my letters back are fewer and less often, she still sends me these little reminders that she cares and loves me.  A precious, precious gift.
  • Outside my window.  Two colorful rebellions against the grayness of the day.  A row of tiny pink crocuses stand as tall as they can, bravely shivering - but beautiful.  And next to my window, shyly hiding in the arbutus (?) bush, bright red-green leaves try to outshine the red berries

  • All around me, complete and utter stillness.  The entire house was peacefully at rest.
9:35 am
  • The musical sounds of the morning rain.  Trickling down the street.  Tip-tapping on the roof.  I stepped outside and heard the leaves and grasses happily applauding as the the raindrops splashed down on them.
  • And then, in between the rushing gray, cottony clouds, the sun peeked out in a cameo appearance - took a quick bow - and then ducked back into the clouds.
10:45 am

  • Deborah called from work.  Hearing her voice made me smile as we talked.  I turned around, and there above my dresser was a mirror I look at everyday, surrounded with cards from her and some favorite photos.  All of them together are a perfect expression of her:  funny, sexy, loving, playful, thoughtful - and of how much we love each other.  No wonder I like looking at this so often.
I know that this little experiment this morning is just a scratching of the surface.  There is much more that is beautiful around me than just these things that make me happy.  

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." (Confucius)

Beauty is always waiting to be discovered, to be enjoyed; not just in quiet, peaceful moments like this morning.  But even during all the unwanted moments I want to avoid or race through.  I just have to remember to slow down and to look for it.

Took this "Monet-like" picture in a California mission just by looking up!
I'm feeling a few more of those unwanted moments at work, now that my retirement is just a couple of months away.  A part of my mind wants to say, "Rush through this!  Just get it done!  Get through the day, the week, the month.  Hurry, hurry, hurry, so that retirement will come sooner!  There's nothing left to be appreciated in this moment.  You've done it all"

But if I listen to that voice, all I ever receive in return is stress and a tight back, products of living in the cramped world of "I don't wanna be here".  No beauty, no peace in that.

Spring is meant to be a time of new beginnings; a time to refresh and grow.  A time to look for new possibilities.  A time to be a hunter of beauty; a welcome recipient of what Life, God is offering me now.  

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Amen to that.  Throw in a glass of wine, a little chocolate, and a kiss (or three!) from my wife, and I would be a blessed man many times over.

Which I am already.  Just have to remember to keep slowing down, and seeking, and seeing, the beauty all around me.

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