In the wake of the horrible happenings in Japan this week and a string of other recent natural disasters affecting New Zealand and Australia, this webcam of newly hatched hummingbirds reminds us of nature's resilience and brings some sense of hope, doesn't it?
Life continuing on in spite of it all: beautiful thing number twenty three.
To watch the live webcam, click here. (Subject to local daylight, and the period of time the fledglings live 'at home' in the nest.)
Other video preserved video on YouTube:
Thirteen: Today’s sunshine. It’s above O°C, for starters, and that is always a bloody beautiful day this time of year. But the sun – whooo boy do we need it. I take vitamin D supplements but there’s an extra dose of something in that sunshine – like some secret vitamin that worms its way through your pores and bones and finds its way to your soul.
But it’s more than that today – the sun is different today. It's closer, more present. I could feel it enveloping me down there on the ground, as opposed to just shining down and filtering its way through the blanket of winter. It’s as if spring is hovering at the door deciding whether to come in. I say come on in Spring – you’re never more beautiful than you are when you’re hovering at the door.
Fourteen: This post by Steve. My friend – women everywhere are going to be jealous of your beached goddess. Finding wonder in long-established love, what could be more beautiful?
Fifteen: This cookbook, which I bought on the weekend. I have to make myself not buy cookbooks; I could sit and look at them forever. But I allowed myself this one because I buy the magazine often and I justified the cookbook thinking that instead of buying the magazine every month, I would buy this at the cost of less than two issues. (Who am I kidding? It’s a beautiful magazine.)
These days I'm particularly enamoured with cookbooks featuring natural, unprocessed food. Natural food is of the most beautiful gifts this planet shares with us, and meals that are simply and lovingly prepared from it is more beauty for the soul. This winter I’m in love with food more than I’ve ever been – maybe it was my way of enduring embracing the winter months. When my television is on, it’s on Food Network most of the time – when I'm not cooking and eating, I'm watching somebody else cooking and eating.
Recently I had to put a moratorium on kitchen activities because I had too many things saved in the freezer for my lunches and dinners. I’ve used it up and am rocking the kitchen again. Last night I made Turkey Chili Taco Soup and I’m counting down the minutes until lunchtime so I can eat it.
Sixteen: How I feel when I do yoga. My body is not a lot of things. But it continues to be flexible and bendy and for that I feel fortunate, because the little bit of heaven I feel at the end of a yoga session is something you just can’t bottle. I’m so ready for serious some outside action again, but in the meantime, daily yoga makes me happy – and beautiful.
I remember once when I was 19 or 20 and being at Holiday Beach playing Frisbee with some friends and getting lost in the perfection of the late spring day. And I remember the ever loving but sometimes irascible and always growly Robbie scoffing me, telling me to get the fuck back down to earth. I was a little annoyed for being yanked out of my reverie. I mean, why deny anyone a little reverie?
Remember the plastic bag scene in the movie American Beauty? That scene astounded me the first time I saw it. It was one of the most memorable movie experiences I ever had – I wanted the story to freeze so I could hold that scene, those words, with me. The film rolled on but I wasn’t ready to let that bit go because in it, Ricky articulates what I’d felt on that day and so many other times:
It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me. Like a little kid beggin’ me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid ever.
Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it… and my heart is going to cave in. (American Beauty, 1999)
That “entire life behind things” is what I think we call beauty. And if we pay attention, it can be a sublime experience.
I think the term “beauty” got commandeered over the past century, and in this post-modern world it seems to have been watered down to represent something trite or trivial. For that reason I hesitated entering into this challenge, as I did last year because I don’t want to be slotted in as one of those ‘bloggers of pretty things.’ Not that I don’t love and appreciate the ‘bloggers of pretty things’ – I follow a number of them and lots of them are really good at it – they are by no means trivial in my mind. But I don't wan't to be perceived as such. This blog is about writing, and inspiration and the creative process and how all those things are associated with the act of living out a life.
So I’m really interested in what it is that is beneath the surface of something that you or I define as "beautiful" – what is that element which connects us to it? What is that “life behind” the wind and that plastic bag that compelled Ricky so? What is it draws me to that colourful fella on the subway or one painting amidst hundreds of others in a gallery, or that particular hymn in that particular church at that particular funeral?
I’ve never subscribed to what my friend Tricia calls the “grandpa in the sky” god theory. But BEAUTY is a cosmic experience I can grasp on to. Beauty gives me the experience of seeing magic coming through a person or a thing or a place. All kinds of artists will say that their work is not by them but passed through them, and whether I’m looking at a picture of Michelangelo’s Pieta or watching Carlos Santana play, I see that.
Once I met a Canadian Orthodox priestmonk, Father Vladimir, at a monastery in Finland where he lived and worked. An artist, he went there to learn and practice icon painting from a master. As I sat in his studio listening to him talk about his calling and his work, I kept turning around to look at one particular icon of Mary on a shelf amidst dozens of others against a wall. At one point I mentioned to Father Vladimir that I couldn’t stop looking at her.
“That’s because she’s speaking to you” he said matter-of-factly, and went on with whatever he’d been talking about.
And at that point, despite my Presbyterian (icon=big no-no) upbringing and knowing very little about the Eastern Orthodox faith, despite my not believing in any “grandpa in the sky,” I had no doubt at all that these strange little paintings were less the product of that lone painter than they were his collaboration with some divine source.
I believe we’re drawn to what we perceive as beautiful because of the strata within it, or that “life behind” it. And I believe those elements of the thing are different for any person who experiences beauty, based on his or her own life, history, needs and desires. And as we evolve and change, our definitions of beauty and our ability to find it changes.
For some reason I need it a lot. The searching for it and writing about beauty keeps my head above the sometimes murky waters of living a life. Maybe there are some more socially-responsible things I could be focusing my writerly attentions on, but in many ways this is self-preservation – or as Ricky put it – fear conquering. Whatever it is – I think life would be pretty much hell without it.
Beautiful thing number 12 of 101 in finding beauty – revisiting the "plastic bag scene."
Aristotle and I
would probably argue at the dinner table
about what constitutes
beauty he said
is represented in
and pour us another glass of wine
he sounds a little uptight
beauty I say
old more often than new
odd more than even
irregular not regular
free flow over precise
spontaneous rather than meticulous
or at least it seems that way
imperfections are marks
but you know
there’s been a lot of water under the bridge
philosophized about stuff
would he still define
order, symmetry, definiteness
as those things that give
pleasure and satisfaction
Beauty and function should go hand in hand; but if forced to choose, choose beauty.
-Quoted by Gordon Pinsent on “The Late Show with Gordon Pinsent”, CBC Radio One, July 28, 2008. 'A friend's mother.'
Rosanne Cash tweeted about this song and Mark Knopfler yesterday. Beautiful squared. A little bit of guitar heaven for your morning. Number eleven.
Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and The Band.
Considering beauty, and things number five and six of 101:
Number five: Seeing the world through the eyes of a daughter is beautiful. For me, it is the opportunity to live life again through them, and be reminded of what it was like to be in the world when I was young. Being in the world with my daughters is to be reminded of what it feels like to love completely – and to be loved, unconditionally.
Today is a particularly striking reminder of that, and today I'm particularly thankful for these daughters. Read the last part of this post from last year to find out why.
Number six: This photographer – Miroslav Tichy, who I discovered at one of my favourite blogs, Accidental Mysteries. The haunting photographs were taken with homemade cameras, and finished with homemade frames. The photos were controversial because his subjects were usually unaware they were subjects. The beauty of his images is unarguable.
I suppose I also feel akin to Tichy because the subjects of my little stories are most often unaware of my attention to them, and I, too, have been taken to account for it. What seems clear: this artist loves his subjects as much as I love mine.
The foundation set up on his behalf has set up this website:
Beautiful things considered, first day of self-imposed challenge.
Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
~William Butler Yeats, 1899
beautiful things found in the process of a quiet, sun-filled weekend: