What? You might ask. How in the world can you think about beauty at a time like this? What is WRONG with you?!
Before you judge me too harshly, give me a chance to explain.
It’s easy to think of beauty as something extra, something we should appreciate when things get tough. It's understandable to dismiss finding pleasure in something at a time like this; certainly that means you are either in denial or selfish, or both. But see, here's the thing, the truth: the possibility for beauty and joy exists in every moment. It doesn't always outshine or outweigh the dark, but it serves as a candle in the the vastness of the unknown, burning nonetheless. We can either turn our back on its light, or turn to face it and let it warm our hearts for a time, no matter how brief. The light and dark exist side by side. There is no way to separate the two.
Beauty has so much joy to gift you, even when—especially when you are feeling low. The people and things that bring us wonder and joy are what give us life. Beauty and pleasure and delight are what we are fighting for, the qualities we are trying to get back to at any given difficult time. These things are nature to desire. We shouldn't have to justify our love of beauty because it makes us feel alive. If we feel the need to prove we deserve it at any given moment, we will find ourselves trying to justify why we deserve to be alive at all.
In the midst of all the stress and preparation and necessary concern this week, I've picked up advance prescriptions at the pharmacy, bought extra food, and tried to run any errands I need to before hunkering down at home for goodness knows how long. I've tried to do my best to spy the glints of beauty.
Sometimes it's a family of singing birds in the branches outside my living room window. Other times it's watching a film and feeling really struck by a moment between two actors. And when I can't seem to find anything ready made to lift my spirits, I've been trying to make those moments myself. Some days, it's been walking around my neighborhood with my camera, trying to take photographs of the buds on the trees, waiting patiently for their debut. Other times, it's scribbling a short phrase or a few words that I think are particularly pleasing in my journal, for no other reason other than I like the way they sound when I say them aloud.
My cat sleeping in a heap of blankets.
A clementine eaten in the sun.
Correspondence from a dear friend.
A book I can't put down.
This little scene is my dresser at night and its dim beauty struck me in the moment as something beuatiful. Gazing at this scene as I'm lying in bed getting ready for sleep makes me feel cozy and offers a bit of comfort in the midst of fear. There are some handmade / handpicked gifts from friends, a few photos of those I love, a thrifted thing or two, and special items I inherited of my grandparents. Oh, and flowers I gifted myself last week as a publishing day present! Each item is so singular and could never be replaced and though that idea can be frightening, it’s what makes these things precious. It also makes me so grateful to have such special one of a kind items in my care at the present time.
Noticing the beauty doesn't mean you've buried your head in the sand. It also doesn't mean overlooking the things that are jagged, rough, and painful. There is beauty woven into even those things. No, noticing and cherishing the beauty you find isn't evidence that you are naive or irresponsible or that you only want to see what's convenient. No. Seeing the beauty is proof that your eyes and heart are open, that you are noticing the world around you. And the power that comes from that kind of awareness is beyond measure.
Here's a few more things I discovered this week that sparked some joy for me. I hope they might do the same for you.
1. This brief video clip of Covid-19 quarantined Italians singing from their open windows and balconies. Is there anything more hopeful than people who refuse to let the darkness and fear keep them from raising their voices in song with their neighbors?
2. This gorgeous rendition of Swedish folk duo's original song, Emmylou. And they are sisters, which is so sweet.
3. If you need some visual beauty, head to www.unsplash.com. I love this website so much, as it has so many stunning images and makes me feel like a kid again, poring over ALL the pcitures. There's even a search function that lets you look for photos by subject or keyword, which is super fun.
This poem by Hafiz. And really, ANY poem by Hafiz.
Take care, everyone. Be on the watch. Beauty is out there, patiently waiting to be discovered, or maybe even made.