Here are two photos which have recently set firing the beauty-appreciation neurons in my brain.
This one is from a garden in South Carolina.
And this is from South Africa.
The description that went with this photo made it even more beautiful to me:
For trees that grow on mountaintops near Cape Town, South Africa, wind can be a magnificent sculptor. Trees that can handle the wind’s effects best will alter their shape to deal with the load of the wind.
At first I felt like both of these pictures struck me as equally beautiful. But, on second thought, I realized that I’m not even sure I want to like the second photo, even though it still registered in my brain as beautiful.
Going all cerebral about my feelings, as I am wont to do, this is what I figured out: The first picture feels kind of like hopeful longing–anticipation of extravagant abundance and more than enoughness. Its beauty seems lush and overflowing and refreshing. I look at it and feel the happiness of not having to worry about drought or anything else, really. Everything the flowers need is implied in that photo, with no cares or concerns about how the needs will be met. It is the kind of picture that makes me feel that, maybe, truly, if God cares for the flowers of the field, I have nothing to worry about.
The second picture feels harsh to me. Life is harsh and hard enough. Why do I want a picture reminding me figuratively of what that feels like, day in and day out? But, still I’m drawn to it, and, in spite of myself, I see and feel beauty when I look at it. It feels like a redeeming kind of beauty. Realistic. Beauty out of what is. Even when “what is” seems to fight against life, let alone beauty. But, still, it’s there. It is a harsh beauty, and one that feels a lot closer to my life than flowers which only have to be concerned with soaking up the water they need, and which know no shortage of that water.
The first photo resonates with my longings. The second photo with my reality. The one holds out hope for a life that might someday be wonderfully easy and beautifully abundant. The second gives hope that there is, against all odds, a beauty and magnificence in dealing with the “load of the wind” in the life I’m living today.
I found a poem today in my new Langston Hughes anthology, which stirred the same kind of feelings in me as the photo from Cape Town:
I’ve been scarred and battered,
My hopes the wind done scattered.
Snow has friz me, sun has baked me.
Looks like between ’em
They done tried to make me
Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’–
But I don’t care!
I’m still here.
(“Still Here” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 295)
And, finally, most days I get an email from Story People, with a short, pithy and often silly but poignant saying (thanks to Bill, a visitor to this website, for introducing me to Story People). Today’s little thought seemed fitting here:
She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.
If, perchance, you are a thinker rather than a feeler, who reads this site (and has stuck around long enough to read to the end of this post), but are shuddering at all the touchy feely stuff, you might find some camaraderie with Ralph, who left a comment in response to the above thought (or should I say the above feeling?):
Oh dear! I’m not sure I could stand to be around this person for any length of time.
That’s okay, Ralph. We need people like you in the world to balance out people like me. And, even if you couldn’t stand to be around people like me for any length of time, it was nice of you to make me smile today! 🙂