Thursday, May 24, 2007

On Beauty

"That which transports us transforms us." -Luther Smith

"Beauty is an essential spiritual practice. Are you attentive to beauty?" Luther Smith asked us at my most recent week at the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Then he quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes -
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

When I reflected on beauty, I was inspired to use a list in the spirit of Sei Shonagon of Japan who wrote The Pillow Book in 1002. I was introduced to Shonagon's lists in the book My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki--reading My Year of Meats will introduce you to the meat industry, DES infertility, documentary filmmaking and spousal abuse, as well as Shonagon's Pillow Book, in an ultimately hopeful book. Reading the lists from The Pillow Book may even inspire you to see your grocery and to do lists as literature!

Here is my list, one that is by no means exhaustive of "Things That Are Beautiful":

The bottomless blue of a glacial pool surrounded by craggy walls of ice.

Crackled frost on fallen leaves plastered to the hood of one’s car.

Twelve pounds of purring tabby cat nestled on one’s lap.

The glistening red nursing blister visible on a baby’s upper lip in sleep.

Wax stalactites formed by candles dripping in a sanctuary on a Sunday morning.

A mile long ribbon of Mexican Free tail bats looping across the San Antonio summer dusk.

The top forty song one sings while showering and chopping onions that is secretly a love song to God.

The sound of one’s name whispered in the dark low and soft as a caress.

The exhale—loud and forceful as a hundred tired men—of an orca surfacing off San Juan Island.

Gleaming berries in a clear glass bowl and a cherished friend to savor them with.

One who holds open a door, physical or metaphorical for one who is burdened physically or metaphorically.

The music of the Holy Spirit that trills up one’s spine like fingers on piano keys.

Any flower painted by Georgia O’Keefe that entices one to became a bee, crawl inside and suck out the nectar.

The bruised rice paper skin of the grandparent’s hand one holds.

“The world will be saved by beauty.” -Dostoevsky

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