Friday, February 18, 2011

A Thing of Beauty

Suddenly, here in central Florida, what passes for winter seems to be over and spring with its flowering trees and shrubs has arrived. Azaleas, the most showy, are emerging along with the dazzling yellow trees called tabebouia.

It so happens we received an orchid last week: 12 white blossoms clustered on two stalks, a phalaenopsis, with butterfly-like blooms, each with a pink center. I hope this thing of beauty will be a joy until Easter.

I had been ignoring our garden until today, when the lure of the outdoors, the desire to plant and weed and enjoy the sunshine asserted itself. When the hot summer weather arrives, all this enthusiasm will melt; for now, life and renewal are here. Now is what matters.

I remember Thomas Moore, in his popular book from the 1990s, Care of the Soul, saying that we all need beauty in our lives. The soul, which he never tried to define, seeks out beauty. Perhaps one way to explain this is to say how easy it is to become dispirited when we have nothing natural or beautiful around us.

The spiritual challenge for me is to look at the familiar with fresh eyes, to de-familiarize my surroundings so that, like Montaigne, I can see things from new perspectives. Having lived in the same house for more than 30 years, it is easy for us to take it for granted. Mindfulness allows me to go from room to room and imagine I am photographing everything or seeing it as a visitor would. I begin to admire the wallpaper, the framed prints, even the familiar furniture, rather than looking at the tasks that need to be done.

Along with this mindfulness comes gratitude for the items we have acquired for our home as well as for the green and growing things outside. I am grateful for the mirrors that bring part of the garden indoors, and on a radiant day like today, it is possible to imagine I live in a grand mansion.

1 comment:

Ned Kessler said...

Thanks for this post. It reminded me of a man whom I worked with in the early seventies. He lived just outside of Gent (or Gand, or Ghent) Belgium and had a garden in his back yard so beautiful that every time he graciously invited me to his house, I'd almost gasp at its beauty. Our work association ran from 1972 through 1975. But he developed ALS later in life, (Lou Gehrig's disease), and eventually succumbed to it, but not without a valiant fight. When I visited him as a guest in his home ten years ago this month, he showed me the special room he'd had built with a bed that would make caring for him easier as the relentless disease progressed. No surprise, the bed was tilted, and faced the back yard, which through large, insulated windows, revealed the glory of that beautiful garden. Thanks for the memory.