Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Arranging the Stars

Fall is one of those times when one can feel as if the whole world is fading away.  It is a time of packing away the easier parts of life like sleeping in and unobstructed weekends and breaking out the bulky clothing of coats and scratchy sweaters, homework and back to school nights.  It can easily oppress to the point of leaving one an emotional parallel of the trees that have already shed their glory and seem overly prepared for winter. 

The malaise of Autumn like the dog days of summer, has more to do with mood than the month.  But fortunately, it can be countered, with hot cider and pumpkins, football games and the trees that are willing to wait and allow themselves to be changed by the weather rather than surrender to it. 

So when today was raining and rough and I'd seen a note from a friend who seemed to hold the weight of the world on her heart, I wanted to paint a picture of beauty with words.  I wanted a scene of peace and beauty because with our 24-7 news cycle, politics, internet noise and the speed of our lives that often seems beyond our control or understanding, we need the stillness that beauty invokes.  But the question had always lingered for me, why is beauty the answer?

We need that moment of awe that comes and makes everything better without explanations.  It brings us back to being fully human. A baby's toothless smile, a letter in the mail, a found ripe tomato amongst the ravaged remains of a summer garden, these are treasures designed to help us through such times when the very air feels moist with dullness.  Prayer, a phone call from a family member, a visit from a friend, these are things which refresh and restore. 

The deeper grace that comes from beauty  is designed to get us through the dullness and tedium that otherwise threatens to engulf the daily grind of life.  Falling in love makes us remember we are more than here.  Reading a great book or seeing a fine film does to, because we can forget time and place not because of instinct, but because of a higher appeal than can be described and understood through the mechanics of science.  Our need for beauty is not limited to sexual appetites, we need and desire it for all our desires.  It is hard wired and further in than the DNA.  

That is part of why hunting for beauty often fails, it relies too much on the physical senses for validation. 

Beauty comes unbidden.  It reveals itself in little ways like wild flowers and a favorite song on the radio, the desirous kiss of one's spouse, the hand holding of a child, and in larger doses like reading the daily gospel and knowing somehow, that reading was picked just for you because you would need it today.  Most of beauty comes with our hearts unaware of how fully it is desired or needed. 

The animal in us does not understand the need for such indulgences; the spirit however, is starved for things like flowers and hugs on birthdays, fires in hearths even when the home is warm, and music that fills the air without clattering.    God knows this deep need echoes His deep love and pours out this beauty in sunshine and rain showers and seasons and creatures and people.  It is to teach us that beauty is indeed, necessary.  God took the time to arrange the stars for our pleasure, out of love for us.  We are to be about the business of arranging stars for others here from that same impulse to please and to love and to serve.

Today, there was a five point stag in my back yard.  If I'd been about my chores and not looking about for something other than my duty, I would have missed this breathtakingly perfect buck.  As big as the creature was, it was amazing that an animal this large could disappear into the woods as stealthily as it had arrived.  Beauty had come unannounced and, having done its job, left. Echos of that moment stayed painted in my mind, patching frayed nerves that had been created by the day's schedule and the to-do list that remained to be tackled.  I wished for my friend that she might have the equivalent of a five point stag in her back yard, catching her up short, filling the space, calming the mind and heart.  

My four year old told me, "Mom, the beautiful deer is gone." as she ate her cupcake that she insisted needed rainbow sprinkles.  Eating only the frosting and sprinkles, she is feasting on beauty as children do before they become jaded to dismiss such intrinsic wants in favor of pragmatism, when it doesn't matter if there are sprinkles or not.  Likewise, my 8 month old doesn't just want a bottle, she wants to be held and have her bottle.  Even she gets that we need more than what we think we need.  It is only when we get lost in the adult world that we fail to see the deer or ask for sprinkles or remember that all of this time here is an extravagant gift.

Nothing we do is unmarked, unnoticed and that at no moment are we ever unloved. Everywhere, there is deep beauty ready to fill our deep need.  Everywhere is the opportunity to arrange stars for others. It is as close as God, as close as creation, as close as the next human in the room. It is in the very air. 

To my dear friend, I hope you know the stars were arranged for you. Breathe deep. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for this piece of beauty... and when you need an extra little dose, swing by that church after school pick up and listen to the bells. stick around because they peal once at 3:01 and again at 3:03 or so.

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