Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.
— Camille Pissaro
How does one define beauty? Is it the latest super model on the cover of a magazine? Is it a sleek new car? Perhaps it is a stunning symphony or sunset over the Grand Canyon. For some it might be the laughter of a toddler or the words of a Shakespearean sonnet. For others it is a bouquet of roses or a rare jewel. While these are all stunning examples of loveliness, sometimes it is in the most unlikely corners of the world that we find the most elegant.
I loved my grandmother Minnie’s hands. They were wrinkled, swollen and misshapen. They had tilled soil, picked crops, milked cows, fed chickens and carried heavy loads. They had also held babies, rolled out dough for biscuits, and assembled guilts. They caught Grandma’s tears when her son died and fluttered to her cheeks when something made her laugh. They held a gun to shoot a squirrel for dinner and hauled in many a fish as well. They chopped off the head of a snake with a hoe and mended clothes to be used for another season. They were hard working and loving hands that showed their age without apology. They were indescribably beautiful.
I often find myself gazing at the simple loveliness of a glass of milk. I delight in its creamy color and velvety texture. I enjoy watching the bubbles that sometimes form at its edges when it has been newly poured. I see my good fortune in that liquid that builds bones and provides energy. I wonder how I have always been lucky enough to have as much of it as I have needed while others in the world are denied its hunger chasing powers.
When I attempt to unveil the mysteries of mathematics to my students there is nothing more glorious than the kind of smile that lights up a face at the moment of understanding. It is a marvelous sight indeed. The eyes glow and I can almost see right into the souls of my newfound geniuses. Their mouths curve in an upward smile showing a confidence that wasn’t there only moments before. We share a silent bond of accomplishment. Theirs is the joy of learning and mine is the satisfaction of providing possibilities.
The sound of the school bus stopping on the corner of my street each morning and afternoon tells me that I will soon hear the delightful voices of the youngsters who live in my neighborhood as they laugh and chatter with one another. I exalt in their playfulness and innocence. They remind me of how fantastic the future will most certainly be. The melody of their voices is an alluring concerto.
The first buds of spring, the cooing doves, the tree branches stretching heavenward and the deep blue sky on cool clear days are all gifts from nature, unique works of art. I take great joy in observing the bounty that is there for me to observe on my walks. I see turtles sunning themselves along the banks of the drainage ditch like armed sentinels. I laugh at the cats that skitter across my path taunting me with their agility and energy as I lope along.
A bird’s feather, a heart shaped rock, a golden leaf, a wildflower are all treasures that delight me. A baby’s foot keeping time to music or the friendly smile of a stranger bring glee instantly to my heart. The earnest drawing and sentiments of a young child are worthy of placement in the gallery of my soul. The warmth of a quilt on a cold night or an icy glass of tea on a summer’s day satisfy my wants and needs in ways that great wealth might never bring. A hug from someone that I love is the simplest but most incredible of pleasures.
It takes so very little for the ordinary to become extraordinarily beautiful. All we need do is pause from the hurry and scurry just long enough the hear the breaths that we take and the beats of our hearts. Savoring the quiet and using our senses to be totally in the moment reveals how much exquisiteness is all around us. Beauty is available for our enjoyment whenever we wish. When we take the time to notice we suddenly realize the glory of our universe with its patterns and colors and magnificence. We revel in our own humanity and realize that every shadow and crevice and nuance of our individuality is pleasing. We become one with the world and its people once we are able to still the negative voices in our heads.
It is not that difficult to meditate and reflect in such a way that we feel peace and are able to see the splendor in all things. It only takes a bit of practice and once we learn the tricks it brings us infinite contentment and optimism. It requires watching and listening and accepting, not talking, worrying, arguing or over thinking. It brings heavenly contentment to our bodies and our minds and we begin to see that there truly is beauty everywhere.