a new challenge: explore beauty

I have been taken with the concept of beauty for a long time.  Not idealized, contrived beauty – but the kind of beauty that has layers of meaning contained within it, and that meaning a different thing for each person that experiences it. 

If beauty can be described as some kind of quality in a thing, place, idea or person that causes an experience of pleasure, satisfaction or even transcendence for its beholder, is beauty then something representing a fulfilment – partial or all – of some sort of need in us? 

I have been transformed by beauty a number of times in my life, and because of that I feel, without a trace of doubt, that beauty is related to the spiritual nature of us – to the magic in our existence.  I wrote about that once or twice last year during the time I was taking part in a 30 Days of Beauty challenge put out there by Erin at her (very beautiful) Bluebirdbaby blog.  Hers was a photography challenge, but I adapted it to fit into my own way of expressing and mostly wrote about finding beauty in those 30 days.  It turned out to be one of the most prolific and popular periods of my online writing experience.  And it did what it was intended to do – lift me above the mire of winter. 

So what is it you find beautiful?  Based on what I know of most of my faithful friends here in blogland, it’s not going to be that pretty pop star whose photo was manipulated to “perfection” for the cover of Rolling Stone.  I could look at Bob Dylan’s face and find mountains more beauty than I can in hers.  But that’s me.  My definition of beauty is formed by where I came from, my ideals, my age, my interests, my education – and my needs.  What about you?  What defines beauty in your world?

I find old train tracks beautiful.  And forgotten corners of cottage yards.  And broken down old sheds.  And my mother’s hands.  The way a little kid darts around his father repeating “Da-a-d…?” as they walk toward the Air Canada Center to the hockey game.  Or the stunning gradation of the sky as it was the other night – from breathtaking orange to the deep royal blue housing that delicate sliver of a crescent moon.  Or Santana’s rendering of Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock.  The soft traces of humming I hear coming from the woman with the beatific smile who sits on the other side of my office cubicle.  The bowl on my table filled with sweet potatoes, beets, Bosc pears, an acorn squash and some bulbs of garlic – a haul from the market last week.  Giant ropes coiled on the decks of ships.

So here I am in February again. I could do with a dose of creative healing and I if last year’s exploration was any indication, another beauty challenge is what my psyche needs.  Kind of like my body and soul needing that big steaming bowl of Phở at lunchtime yesterday.  Hell, just writing these past two paragraphs made me feel good.  Since Erin decided not to issue the challenge again this year (going with another wonderful idea instead), I’m doing an explore beauty challenge of my own, and I’d love it if you joined me.

You may not be mired in any deep dark winter.  Maybe you’re in summer, or whatever season it is it’s your happiest time of year and beauty is falling all over you at every step.  I’m inviting you to do it anyway.  Maybe you’re not a blogger.  Who cares?  I dare you to write 1-101 on a piece of paper and take it with you wherever you go. 

The challenge is simply this:

Find 101 examples of beauty, and show, tell, list or write them.  Photographs, poems, paintings, crafts – however it is you tell your story. 

I’m dispensing with the timeframe because the number target may seem high.  Do it once a week and it could become an ongoing topic for a year.  Find a few things a day, the project could last a month.  Sit down for a few hours and you could finish a list in one go!  Maybe you’re not ready just now.  Or maybe you are stumbling across this challenge six months from now.  Any time is a good time to start. 

I’m creating a badge and a dedicated page for the challenge (stay tuned).  You can grab the badge and put in your sidebar if you like, as a reminder of where to find inspiration in an uninspired or down period.  And that, really, is the point.  Where the doldrums take over – finding beauty brings inspiration back. 

Why 101?  I just like odd numbers better than even ones.  It’s only a number and who knows, maybe the term “101” will just be a symbolic sort of thing, representing “my collection” or “my exploration.”  I just know that for me, it’s a topic I need to return to time and time again, and I’m hoping it will turn into something of an extended exploration here.  After all – it’s really beauty that I’m searching for in Realia every day.  I'd venture to say it's what we're all looking for. 

10 Comments

  1. Mike Stone February 9, 2011

    Thank you Jennifer, for being one of the very few genuine, rewarding experiences that I get from this Facecrap site I can’t seem to get away from.
    A few pieces of music I associate with beauty —
    Jennifer Warnes – Song of Bernadette
    Neil Finn – Into The Sunset
    Jon Hassell – Estaté
    The King’s Singers – Matelot
    Jean Redpath – Reel O’ Stumpie
    XTC – Then She Appeared
    The Kinks – Days
    I guess I should try and write some beauty music of my own now, shouldn’t I…

  2. Reluctant Blogger February 9, 2011

    Interesting. In a way I see beauty everywhere at the moment just because I am so blissfully ecstatically happy – I can look at dust in a corner and it fills me with a warm glow!!
    But generally I think i see beauty where there is expanse – sky, sea, landscapes and yes, I feel it when I hear music if I am alone. I think that reflects my need for freedom and space.
    I have a serious problem with commitment and obligation at every level so I cannot take on your challenge but what I will do is carry this with me and see what happens. Something might – on my own terms – and if I feel like jotting something down then I will. so I can’t promise anything at all but sometimes I surprise myself if I allow myself the freedom to do as I wish.
    Oh I know what else I find beautiful – industrial type structures in silhouette – power stations and things.

  3. Jennifer February 9, 2011

    Michael thank YOU. I’m really chuffed you say so. Yes, there is so much crap on facebook, and I get kind of militant about what I let show up on my wall. It can be a great forum for old friends and families, but I too chide myself for spending so much time there, reading about some person’s sore leg or canned status written by some 16 year old twerp in Idaho.
    Thank you for your list – I’m going to [re]visit all of those songs.
    And yes – you should!
    xo

  4. Jennifer February 9, 2011

    I thought of you when I was writing the piece RB, in your blissful state. I hope you share any jottings that occur! I’m glad you shared these.

  5. Susannah February 9, 2011

    Brilliant idea Jennifer, I’m in! 🙂
    I loved the 30 days of beauty you did before.
    I will look out for the page and badge you are going to create and meantime I’ll have a think which of my blogs will play host to this.

  6. Jennifer February 9, 2011

    Glad to hear it Susannah. Really looking forward to your beautiful things.
    I’ve posted a badge here, which will be home to the challenge. Let me know which blog and I’ll put a link on the page!
    http://jensrealia.typepad.com/blog/explore-beauty-a-challenge.html

  7. LindyLouMac February 10, 2011

    This a lovely idea but due to lack of time I will pass on joining in, although I feel I explore beauty already on a regular basis for Beautiful World.

  8. Jennifer February 10, 2011

    Of course! I really limit the challenges I participate in too because I have my own “agenda” if you will, as we all do. I was finding I wasn’t taking enough photos to continue Beautiful World, and my own blog must always come first – as it is for all of us!

  9. Selma February 10, 2011

    I enjoyed your days of beauty last year too so I am really looking forward to this. I see beauty in a lot of places. It tends to be unusual things like the detail on an iron gate or the curl of a leaf. The ultimate example of beauty for me however, is the sky. Blue, sunrise, sunset or stormy – I just can’t get past how much it inspires me with its sheer gorgeousness. I’ve got a sore neck from always looking up at it!

  10. Jennifer February 11, 2011

    Thanks Selma. I always enjoy discovering your sense of beauty too. And I’m with you on the sky thing!

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