Archive for July, 2011

beauty is as beauty does

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

It’s a paraphrase from Forest Gump.

I was waiting for a meeting today, thumbing through (can one “thumb” through digital images?) my images searching for an scene I know I photographed back in 2004, but can’t find today. It was a priceless image, one of those construction images that nobody usually takes, but I enjoy when I walk into one.

As I was thumbing through, I came across some video and still images I took one of the last summers Dad and I were at the lake together. Video of the just-completed rooms, of Dad showing the house to the Gum sisters, showing them his catch of the day down at the dock, and Dad on the last tractor we bought together.

There were photos of the beauty of the lake, the placid surface on a sunny afternoon, Asters in closeup bloom, Lotus’s that didn’t quite choose to enter focus, and a very proud Swamp Iris. There was some video too, limited as it was in resolution, and weak in the sound quality, I could hear crickets, frogs, and the crack of a deer stepping on a twig (at least I hope it was a deer!), there was video of a thunderstorm and the woosh of a steady forest rain. Photos of the monument mom had made for the driveway garden where all of us kids, sprinkled some of Dad’s ashes so he’d be there always. But as I sat here in Texas, seeing, hearing, and remembering the lake, I found myself wondering, “is it still beautiful?”

Beauty is as beauty does. I don’t really know what that means. I imagine it, imagine the beauty of the lake, and I’m sure its still pretty, still peaceful, still a home to fish, frogs and the occasional mosquito, but will it be beautiful without my reason for being there?

Its hard to say, and I’m guessing, but I think beauty and the beholder are connected. Beauty is the ability to see beyond the mosquitos, flies, and ticks. Beyond the winter break-in damage, the reluctant water pump (maybe it wanted to be a firetruck pump?) beyond the endless list of things to fix, tractors to start, grass to cut, beauty is.

So maybe beauty is an editing of some things and a golden glow our minds use to frame meaningful people and places.

There was a movie called a beautiful mind that was out a few years ago, about a genius who was overwhelmed by the things in his mind, I was never sure why they titled it as they did, but thought that our minds are really the key. Its us who see beauty, or not. Its us who are stricken by the small flower that’s fought its way up through the crack in the sidewalk, or by the arc of shorebirds taking flight at sunset.

We make beauty…and I think we need it in our lives.

I was in a meeting today, an administrative discussion of changes and possibilities and was struck by how often I heard my peers say “but the problem with that is…..” when all it takes is to say, “it could be done this way” or “it could be a real chance to do something.” But all too often we see why we can’t, not how we can. I struggle with that on many days, I wake up look at the empty space beside me and wonder “how could we….?” or “we could do this…” I’ve not hit on the answers to the big challenges in life yet, but I’ll keep pitching and see what comes up.

I’m sure I’ll go to the Lake next year. Step out of the car one fine June afternoon, take that first breath of pine deep into myself, close my eyes and hear it all, the croak, the trill, the splash, and then will go about the ritual of mowing, priming the pump, changing out old gas for new, sweeping out the remnants of the winter guests, and when the ritual is done, sit at the edge of the dock and see how beautiful it all is.

Find some beauty in life today! You need it!
Be good to each other.