“…thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world.” – “The Sweetness of Dogs,” by Mary Oliver
I’ve been thinking of how beautiful this world is, this world I see from my front window, the world I see as I walk under the branches of slender trees on city streets, this world of flowers that blow in the gentle summer wind as I pass, and as I acknowledge them, note their presence in my world.
This is a beautiful world. I note this fact with gratitude, joy and humility. I did not create this place, yet here it is, right before my eyes, these eyes that have seen many things, including death, and now, this singular beauty.
In my religious training, I did not hear much about beauty. Did I hear of beauty at all? Did beauty enter into the meanings of things, the value of things, the value of life, of my life, of all lives? I think not. And yet as I recall the words of the people of all faiths, I know there have been some among us, some ordinary human beings – like me, like you – who have searched, always, for the answers to life, and who have also witnessed to the beauty of the world.
A woman I admire greatly and I were speaking one day. I mentioned the beauty of things to her. She stopped short, reprimanded me, in a way, reminding me of the awful things that are present in the world. I agree. I know the suffering of this world, have known some small measure of it myself, have seen it in the eyes of those I love who were meeting death. I remember, often, the flow of refugees, people like me who have lost their homes to war that is not their own, people who set off into the night with a few belongings and those they love, to find a place where they will be welcomed. My heart grieves for them, also.
And so I witness to beauty on their behalf, and in my witness is a longing, also, for their time to witness this beauty.
My friend’s short response is a response we all know, very well. As soon as we grant ourselves the gift, the moment, the abundance to witness beauty, our mind clicks into gear: “how can you take this time, when there is so much important work to be done?” “Why notice beauty when others are suffering?” “And what will you do to make this a world where there is justice, where there is enough, for all?” My mind works that way. I’ll bet yours does, too. And so we set upon our important work, this work that will change the world. And we fail to see beauty, that ever-present gift that we are given, now, in this moment.
As I write, a single bird calls, frantically, outside my window. This, too, is beauty. I am grateful for this song. The voice of the bird brings me back, to this moment.
I am grateful for the poets, and for their trail of words that speak to beauty. I am so grateful for their words. Often in my life, their words have given me hope. And now, in my own witness to beauty, there is this hope.
Sometimes I think about the years I have lost, those years when beauty surrounded me, and I was too busy, too tired, too involved in matters of importance, to see that beauty, that gift, that creation, this creation. As for now, I have this beauty. I am grateful.