Awakening to Beauty

Balthasar van der Ast Stilleven met schelpen en herfststijloos 1593-1657

It’s that time of year when our senses awaken again to beauty. Though winter has its own beauty, there is just something about spring. New life, new growth and warmth, all come together to somehow make us feel alive again after the long, dark and cold days of winter. Every time I see redbuds coming out in the spring, I cannot help but think of my mother. She adored redbuds and every spring her enthusiasm never waned for their bright beauty and the vernal hope of spring. That woman loved beauty. Her entire life, she loved beauty. Even when she was in the middle of her battle with Alzheimer’s, she was still awake to the beauty around her. Whether it was singing a hymn, or filling her home with little trinkets that she found lovely even in her confused state… she was constantly surrounding herself with beauty even at the end. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that not everyone sees or appreciates the beautiful. I’m sad for those who don’t notice it. I come from a line of women who loved beauty and I’ve always known the love of it. My grandmother is also great lover of beauty and passed it to my mother and I. I can still hear my grandmother declaring strongly, “I don’t like ugly” in her southern accent. It was a statement she often made. I am so grateful that they passed their love of beauty on to me. I don’t remember a time in my life when I did not love beauty. I wrote my first “poem,” as my mother called it at the age of three, all about the beauty of a drive through the mountains. I remember very clearly being a child and my eyes and heart awakening to beauty. These things were shown to me and taught to me as a child. Our society has cheapened beauty. It has called things beautiful that are not. Schools cut arts funding, and for years people have settled for less than what could be; from mediocre autotuned music to cheap “art” you can buy for your walls from the local box store. All of this is getting increasingly worse with the rise of screens and social media. Even when people are seeing scenes of true beauty, I wonder if their eyes linger long enough to experience it, or just pause long enough to click the like button and then scroll away to the next image. I want beauty for my son. I want him to know the difference between true beauty and cheap imitations. I want him to care about beauty, and as the years roll by I see more and more the importance of us passing this on to our children and future generations. If we don’t, who will? From the time our son was a baby, my husband and I have tried to always point out beauty to him and to surround him with it. Through time in nature, travel, literature, art and music we have surrounded him with beauty from day one. When he was a baby we used to watch the sunrise together and it’s something that we have done many times since. We used to marvel at the colors when he was so tiny that he could barely speak their names aloud and even now he runs to me with excitement to alert me to beauty he sees in the sky or in the yard. My prayer is that we can instill this in him so that he will know that true beauty will continually guide him towards the beauty of our Creator. I hope that one day he will remember how his mother, his grandmother and his great grandmother pointed him in the right direction. One day at the beach he ran to show me his pail of fish and proceeded to add seashells into the pail alongside the fish. He explained to me that if the fish have beauty in there with them, then they would not feel afraid. On days like these, I think we just might be doing something right.

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