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.