Seeking Beauty

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

You cannot wait, passively, for beauty to find you, if you wish to live with beauty daily.

Oh, sure, the climactic splendorous lovelies will find you in your passivity, and may do so in such a bright and brilliant way that even the most complacent can’t miss it: the most panoramic of sunsets like Midas touching the sky, or snow-capped mountains majestic and proud, or… Well, perhaps not. I’ve seen people ignorant of even breath-stealing sights like that, visions I’d thought impossible to miss, yet it’s easy to sit and curse the rush-hour traffic or endure tunnel-vision of getting from point A to point B.

You have to be aware of beauty, and open to it. Notice your surroundings: see, smell, taste, hear, touch. Engage. Feel. There are sights so classically lovely that they’re easy to spot, but it takes a closer look to find the little things.

There. A spot of green in the sidewalk crack, beaded with dew.

Or there. The crinkle at the corners of a smiling woman’s eyes.

Even there: the reflection of blue sky and scudding white clouds in the gleaming mirror-glass tower of a downtown building.

I am lucky to live in a place of great beauty. Denver is a lively, fascinating city full of art and a diversity of humanity, nestled at the meeting-place between mountain range and plains. I see mountains on my daily commute home, not far in the distance, a skyline that changes with the light. The high plains greet me as I leave my workplace, just past the parking lot, all rushing wind and gold-green ocean of prairie grass. Always, there is the sky: we’re closer here, higher up, less atmosphere to fog it up with gray, and the ever-present wind moves the clouds swiftly along to keep it clear, sunny, achingly blue until the sun sets behind mountains and dust. We have the most incredible skyscapes.

But there are people who say Colorado is only browns, unappealing, unlovely. Yet the brown bit, that desolate lonely beauty of autumn prairie and cactus canyons, is the part I love best.

You have to look from many angles.

There’s a serpentine part of me, fanged and hungry, that finds a scintillating pang of beauty in the tart coppery keen of human pain. There’s a fiery feathered part of me that finds equal loveliness in the constant struggle to be free, the transformation of the self, the soul’s tenacious fight to change and heal and live and grow… in our capacity for adaptation. I have been awestruck by the rare moments of illumination in a treatment center, those points of realization or breakthrough or fragile gifts of trust despite everything – made all the more precious by the grime and darkness and trials these moments grow in.

There is beauty in the things that frighten, in the things that safeguard, in things that hurt or heal or cry or sing. The entire range of emotion, experience, existence. The large things. The small things. The long-lasting things, the fleeting things; the ancient things, the brand new things. The bits in the cracks, refusing to quite fall through into obscurity. The cracked things. The cracks themselves, and the caulk that seams them.

Finding beauty is like finding myth, or magic, or the divine – though perhaps these are all the same things with different names. You have to see, and seek, and notice. You have to be open to it.

I am always happier when I remember to live in that open seeking mind-space.

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