Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

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What do I see when I peer into the mirror? I see change. I see experience. I see the Byram eyes. I see the wrinkles around my mouth. Age spots. I see a neck that is crinkling and lines in my forehead. I don’t see ‘me.’ At least the person in the mirror doesn’t feel like me. She’s not the woman that I saw for most of my adult life. She’s not the pretty, soft eyed woman that could turn heads. The one who seldom wore makeup and simply trusted her natural beauty. In all honesty, while not quite a stranger, this creature who looks back at me and whom I recognize as me still seems somehow unfamiliar. I most definitely haven’t caught up to this face yet.

This woman in the mirror doesn’t appear as approachable as the one that I had the luxury of taking for granted for so long. She doesn’t look as soft or as gentle as the one who lives inside of me. This one looks like she’d probably suffer no fools and would tolerate no back talk.

I direct her to smile, and she immediately obliges. Still, no matter how hard we try, she and I, that smile doesn’t convince me that she’s, well, truly me. Could this be what experience and life wisdom does to a face? The question surprises me. After all, it’s been my lifelong mission – the acquisition of wisdom. Am I offering up a psychic trade? Beauty for wisdom? Or maybe I’m merely acknowledging a simple truth. You don’t get to approach wisdom without traveling a significant distance, suffering lots of fools (including your own foolhardiness), and encountering (and even embracing) so many (often painful) opportunities for growth. And all of those take a toll on a face.

What kind words can I say about this face before me? If I’m truthful, I need to admit that no such words come to mind at the moment. Clearly, I haven’t made peace with this face. I miss the old one. I really miss the old one. And yet, I prefer this version of the woman who claims the face in my mirror. She’s so much happier and, yes, wiser than the younger, prettier one.

And now I gaze at the woman looking calmly back at me, smile at her warmly, and send her love.

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Recently I was appreciating the photographs of a woman whom I admire tremendously – pictures of her garden, the ocean, a number of stunning landscapes, an osprey nest, and an eagle in flight. As a child she was the victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, tortured by the kind of cruelty and ugliness that can break hearts and shatter souls. And yet, as an adult she has spent a great deal of time both capturing and creating beauty. I was reminded as she shared her photography with me of psychologist, Rollo May, one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement.

As a young man May fell victim to a debilitating depression. Many years later, when asked by writer and film maker, Phil Cousineau, what had saved him during that dark and painful time, Rollo replied, “beauty.”

In his book, “My Quest for Beauty” May wrote of wandering aimlessly in the hills of Greece where one day he stumbled into a field of wild poppies and had the following epiphany, “It seemed that I had not listened to my inner voice, which had tried to talk to me about beauty. I had been too hard-working, too ‘principled’ to spend time merely looking at flowers . . . it had taken a collapse of my whole former way of life for this voice to make itself heard. . . What is beauty? . . . Beauty is the experience that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases one’s sense of being alive.”

I am thinking about my remarkable photographer friend and about Rollo May when I visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. After a long and difficult week, I lie down beside the waterfall in the rhododendron garden among the ferns, hostas, bees, and beautiful blossoms. I welcome the beauty, allow myself to become intoxicated by it, lost in it. George Washington Carver wrote, “If you love it enough, anything will talk with you.” And so I send my love out into the garden. I listen. It begins to speak…

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