Posts Tagged: finding beauty challenge

perspectives

Saturday, Ceri and I are at a local pub having a late afternoon beer and snack, and at the table next to us are three people having a conversation about work.  We know this because the voice of the guy dominating the conversation gets louder and louder as his stories progress.  He’s bitter.  Apparently his employers are idiots and have created a horribly unhappy environment to work in.  He talks about how he would manage the sorry people he is forced to work with, and tells tales of one in particular.  He talks about how he would “fire her ass” and about how good he was at firing people when he was the boss.  The conversation goes on and on and the guy gets louder and more incensed with every tale of the horribleness of his workplace.  And as we get up to go home, all I can think about is how glad I am that I don’t have to work with that guy.

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Later, just as we get home I shout, “wow, look at that!”  It was this year’s “super moon” beginning to rise over the lake.  We go out onto the balcony and start photographing it.  It’s a giant luminescent ball of gorgeousness drifting there in the sky, causing ribbons of light to fall across the water.  I recall overhearing a gal talking about last year’s super moon and saying “I was so disappointed.”  I wondered, was she expecting it to sing and dance too?  Looking at it this year I can’t imagine how anyone could find it disappointing.

As we’re watching the moon float higher and higher, lighting the cruise boats sailing beneath it, we notice two young guys in the parking garage next to my building taking pictures in the opposite direction with a fancy camera with a long lens.  We’re not sure what they’re shooting, but we can’t believe it could be more interesting than that moon creating such drama over that lake. 

They see Ceri and I and our cameras on the balcony gazing southward, and look as if they’re wondering aloud what we’re taking pictures of.  Ceri points in the direction of the moon, but they just stand there.  Eventually they walk over near the south facing wall and look in the general direction where Ceri was pointing, but the wall would have blocked their view of the moon. 

A few minutes later we see them walk out into the street, right under that magnificent orb, oblivious to its show.

image from www.flickr.com
image from www.flickr.com
It never disappoints me.  For that reason, it's beautiful thing number ninety.

first snow

image from www.flickr.com

There are two really great "first snow of the season" experiences.  One is waking up to a layer of the stuff blanketing the world.  The other is looking up into a light at night and seeing it falling all around you.  

After standing under the light, trying to capture a picture and feeling the snow on my face and hair and seeing it dotting my glasses and my phone (camera), I walked home significantly lighter than I felt when I left.  Happy winter.

first snow, sort of

December 27-2011 Snow

It's been raining all day today. I was itching to get out for a walk early, but seeing the hunched people down there on the sidewalk bracing themselves against the weather got me finding things to do around here instead.  Eventually it got to the "go now or don't go" point so I layered on my rain jacket over my coat and went out.  

Me and my umbrella wandered a bit in the Harbourfront, took a few pictures and watched the people skate at the outdoor rink down by the lake and felt I like a wuss for putting the outing off.  I walked some more and then went up to the grocery store and on the way home got a bottle of wine then the rain changed to snow.  Apparently we had some snow when I was in Vancouver all those weeks ago, but I never saw it.  So technically, this is my first snow of the season. 

There are two really great "first snow of the season" experiences.  One is waking up to a layer of the stuff blanketing the world.  The other is looking up into a light at night and seeing it falling all around you.  

After standing under the light, trying to capture a picture and feeling the snow on my face and hair and seeing it dotting my glasses and my phone (camera), I walked home significantly lighter than I felt when I left.  Happy winter.

Snow falling in a streetlight:  Beautiful thing number eighty.  

“open your eyes, look at that”

 

Did you know that eighty percent of the information we receive comes through our eyes? And if you compare light energy to musical scales, it would only be one octave that the naked eye could see which is right in the middle?  And aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world? And aren’t we grateful that we have hearts that can feel the vibrations in order for us to allow ourselves to feel the pleasure and beauty of nature?  ~Louie Schwartzberg

Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving today.  Anybody's Thanksgiving Day is a good reminder for all of us to express some gratitude.  If you need some help thinking about what to be grateful for, Louie Schwartzberg has some ideas.  

In fact he’s done such a good job in reminding me, I’m calling him beautiful thing number seventy-seven.

 

walking and beauty splashed all over a weekend

Over the weekend Ceri and I spent a good deal of time walking around.  We did the forty minute walk back and forth between each other’s places a number of times; at one point yesterday taking the long way around to stop and have the big brunch and $3 Caesars by the lake as we did a few weeks ago. (Justified of course by all the walking.)

Saturday we met up for lunch downtown after he’d spent a few hours in the office and I got a very happy re-blonding of my blonde.  We managed to make it through the throngs at Yonge-Dundas Square pretty much unscathed and lunched at a brew pub looking down from the second floor into Yonge Street and for a little while, the Occupy Toronto protest making a pass-through.

Yesterday we strolled around his beautiful and historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, a place of enormous riches for someone who seeks out beauty in the corners of a city.  The thing I love about living in the heart of a big city is that there is always some new inspiration, some new splash of colour or interesting character to stimulate the imagination.  It’s particularly easy to find these things in neighbourhood gems like this one.  Ceri was ever patient as I stopped every minute or so to be inspired once again through my camera’s lens.

As we stood outside the lovely façade of an old bookstore looking through the window at the cacophony of stacks and piles that simply could not bear the slightest bit of organization or categorization, I said “I believe your neighbourhood is going to have to be beautiful thing number seventy-six.”

Bridge
Bookstore
Curlicue
Japanese maple
Jason george
Market

We weren't sure if the bicycle cops had to do with the Occupy Toronto protesters camped out a number of blocks away, or a potential going out of control of unruly children and their parents making their way downtown to see the Santa Claus parade.

Window

hippie news and a favourite beauty

How much do I LOVE this gal?  She's has to be the smartest, most insightful, ascerbic, funny and talented writer I know.  Slide the video ahead to 5:38 or so and you'll see her in all her marvellousness. 

(THEN – after you've enjoyed Tricia extolling the value of finding beauty, wind back and enjoy Hippie News. Hippie News rocks.)

Tricia and Winston and all the folks at Hippie News – beautiful thing number 60.

 

 

he walks

This is one of my favourite songs.  I don't think you'll be surprised.

When posting videos, my first inclination is to post a great video of a live performance by the artist.  My second is to post a great performance by the artist, even if the video is crap. My third is to post a great cover.  I'm posting a great cover of one of my favourite songs by one of my main men, Bruce Cockburn – the Rankin Family doing it at a Governor General's gala more than ten years ago.  Really – Cookie outdoes herself; her version has become kind of famous in itself. 

And her version covers off most of my YouTube posting criteria, whereas the only version of the original on YouTube is an amateur homemade video of compiled stills against the recording, which isn't that exciting to watch.  Don't watch. Just listen – small, sublime, beautiful thing number 46. 

Then enjoy Cookie and her sibs.  I'll bet you five dollars you won't mind hearing it twice in a row.

Bruce Cockburn


 

 

The Rankin Family


 

 

a weekend of the restorative kind

My weekend was restorative.  I decompressed from the hellish work week previous and all that time not doing things at home.  Like laundry.  It was the perfect weekend for a recovery. 

Saturday morning I awake to rain (never a sorry sound to wake up to as far as I’m concerned) and then thunderstorms and then drizzling rain and blustery, chilly dampness.  I get out anyway and nose around downtown and buy some groceries and a few other items I’d been wanting.  One could never accuse me of spoiling too much weekend doing things like housework.

Sunday morning shows pity on us weekenders, and opens the curtains wide, letting the heavens shed down a most welcome and most luminescent heat.  I attend the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival up at Queen's Park.  The afternoon is pretty much perfect; I move between sunny spots and shady spots and listen to drum sounds that at once electrify you and plant you on the earth.  (Drumming arts at a time one needs some soul reviving: beautiful thing number forty.)

Drum Fest The 2011 Muhtadi International Drumming Festival, Queen's Park

I've arranged to meet up with Kelsey so I walk slowly back through the University of Toronto Campus.  It strikes me how I’d forgotten how much I love to be on a campus, and I wonder what life would be like had I chosen a path of academia.  I don’t dwell on that thought too long, but I decide I need to visit this university more often.  A campus bursting with green under sunlight: beautiful thing number forty-one.

Dappled Sun at U of TDappled Sunlight, University of Toronto  

As I’m heading back toward College St., groups of heavily garbed Muslim women pass me by going the other way.  I can’t help but feel the contrast in us, me in my summer skirt and cleavage revealing tank top and sandals.  Having just turned 50, I embrace my cleavage as a badge of honour, but the opposing theories regarding what one wears as a badge of honour is palpable as I move amongst the young women. 

I smile at them as I would any stranger passing me by, though most of them, chatting amongst themselves or with thoughts elsewhere, ignore me.  But then one woman makes a point of pausing to smile back with a small wave.  I wave back, and the turn of her body in her long black gown and veil and charming smile makes me think suddenly of that nun who flashed the peace sign in the Woodstock movie. 

Let's call the smiling women, one at the U of T on a sunny day in June 2011 and one on a muddy concert site in August 1969, beautiful things number forty-two and forty-thee.

Nun WoodstockAnother gesture, another era.

I walk down to Spadina Ave. and hook up with Kelsey and we have dinner on a patio then take a meandering walk around the Harbourfront piers, chatting as the sun sinks in the sky and loosens its hold on the day.  And I even finish the laundry.

mother

The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word "Mother," and the most beautiful call is the call of "My mother." it is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is every thing — she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.

Every thing in nature bespeaks the mother. The sun is the mother of earth and gives it its nourishment of hear; it never leaves the universe at night until it has put the earth to sleep to the song of the sea and the hymn of birds and brooks. And this earth is the mother of trees and flowers. It produces them, nurses them, and weans them. The trees and flowers become kind mothers of their great fruits and seeds. And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love.

– Kahlil Gibran, from Broken Wings

Rediscovering Kahlil Gibran for the hundredth time is beautiful thing number thirty-seven.

I'm finding beauty, are you?

e. e. cummings, jimi hendrix’s guitar, and the power of a metaphor

…or another Ken Long story.

One of the things I learned in doing my adult education degree is that people process new information based on their individual experiences and accumulated knowledge. Each of us absorbs (or rejects) information in a different way, and if we reflect on new information against our own life experiences, we can come to a more meaningful understanding. If new knowledge is meaningful to us, it changes us somehow. In education circles, that’s called transformative learning.

I didn’t know or really care about any of that when I went to university the first time. All I knew was that I was ten years older than most of my lecture hall peers, and I felt out of touch and out of place. But my first English professor, Ken Long, taught me about transformative learning a most impactful way.

So there are my classmates and me, wearing all manner of perplexed expressions as Long tries to get us to analyze this poem by E. E. Cummings:

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Most people are shifting in their seats, trying to translate the disjointed sentences and punctuation that was, if not absent, used in odd (wrong) ways. Surely the thing is derogatory. Or, maybe it isn’t?

But Long is trying to get us to look deeper– what is the *point* of the disjointed sentences used together? What emotions are evident in the poem? How many voices is the poem reflecting?

Silence.

So then he turns to that most powerful conveyor of meaning, metaphor:

“Think about Jimi Hendrix’s guitar solo of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock.”

Long looks back out to the sea of blank faces – and maybe he saw mine in the midst of them, smiling under the light bulb that had been switched on above my head. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

In one instant, because of my awareness of that historic rock and roll moment, I could see that Cummings is satirizing false patriotism created by catchphrases and concepts, and I see him suggesting that his beloved country is less free because of those that blindly ascribe to those phrases and concepts while calling those that don’t, unpatriotic.

I wasn’t old enough to remember Woodstock directly, but I knew all about the event, I had seen the video and heard Hendrix’s controversial solo many times, and I knew he was playing to an audience that was critical of the Viet Nam war in particular, and questioning of the “establishment” in general, and were often called un-American for it. I had felt the emotion in that solo, and could tell that it reflected both love for his country, mourning for lives lost in war, and a critical disdain for an administration’s use of a bunch of symbols wrapped up in a national anthem to form such a narrow definition of loyalty and patriotism.

It was with mild amusement that I saw that none of the 19 year-olds in the room seemed to have any idea of what the professor was talking about. If they knew who Jimi Hendrix was, or if they’d heard of that solo, the connection sure wasn’t gelling.

For me though, that professor shed light – again – on my power as an adult learner, showing me how my own experiences and life-acquired knowledge framed my critical perspective, and could make new learning richer and more meaningful.

Oh, and there was that other little writing/art/life lesson too – the power of the metaphor. I must say, to this day that particular metaphor of a most beautiful guitar player reflecting the meaning in an e.e. cummings poem, is still my favourite. Let's call it beautiful thing number 36.

 

I'm finding beauty – are you?