These past weeks, here in the Cévennes, we have had quite a stretch of gray skies and rainy days. Our summers can be scorching hot, so we're grateful for this watering of the earth before the dryness to come. After all, "April showers, bring May flowers." The French version goes like this: "Avril mouillé fait Mai feuillé," which means "Wet April turns into leafy May" (sounds way better in French!)
Thanks to the rains, our river runs happily along, and the plants and flowers are bursting forth with new growth. A sense of fullness all around.
I believe beauty is everywhere, waiting to be discovered if we only open our eyes and hearts to see. Living in such a lovely place, I'm constantly reminded to do so. Also, writing this blog nudges me to practice things I've mentioned–to slow down and take time to notice. To breathe. As I receive the gift of beauty, my soul expands. If I remember to be grateful, to thank the Creator of it all, my spirit soars.
Our little town, St. Hippolyte du Fort, is old. The first settlements here date back to the expanding Roman empire. Over a millennium later, there are records of a family with eight children, born in my home, the Château de Planque, starting in 1444. There are many buildings with dates engraved over the entry: 1642, 1776. It never ceases to amaze my American brain.
Somedays, the architecture, streets, and various embellishments such as fountains and sundials, statues, and monuments easily appear charming to me. I marvel at the long history and the artistic flourishes. Other days, everything can look a bit heavy, gray, and a little shabby. If I let myself be "under the weather" (literally or figuratively), or filled with negative thoughts and emotions, my lens shifts and blurs. An unpleasant downward spiral occurs if I dwell there too long.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is an adage attributed in another form to Plato, then to Oscar Wilde. The idea is that we each see beauty differently. I used to have more of a fixed idea of what was beautiful or not. As time goes by (haha, meaning the older I get!), I've started to see the loveliness beyond the obvious.
When I started painting and drawing a few years ago, I began to see in a whole new fashion. I love it. To tune in to colors, shapes, and details, to attempt some form of re-creation, opens a whole new world. Connection occurs, a result of the seeing and the re-creating. One of the first things I painted was a grand old tree along the walking path next to the river. Now, when I pass by now, I silently say hello, I know you.
Spectacular expressions of breathtaking beauty can overwhelm with magnificence and enormity. When we lived in Kona, Hawaii, glorious sunsets were an almost nightly occurrence. Magnificent, blazing colors brushed across the sky in an ever-changing tableau. Residents and tourists alike stop and take the time to watch. I must have taken dozens of photos, as they were each unique, always unbelievably beautiful. But trying to capture and hold on to the splendor was futile. I learned it was best to simply enjoy it, breathing in the sweet air and, of course, always watching for the infamous "green flash" as the sun dipped into the sea. Honestly, I only ever saw a green "dot," but it didn't matter in the lingering afterglow.
We also have gorgeous sunsets here in St. Hippolyte du Fort...
From my bedroom window...
Equally delightful are the tiny, hidden, less overt forms of beauty. Discovery adds to the pleasure. Noticing the sparkle of raindrops on flower petals or even the wire fence brings delight. But it requires slowing down, which has never come naturally for me. As I learn to observe these micro versions of beauty, I am enriched.
Using all five senses also enhances our experience of beauty. When I remember to notice the scents and feel of the air, the rustling leaves, or rushing river, the loveliness becomes dimensional. I know I so often forget to do this, but I believe God gave us all our senses for a reason. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8) is a startling statement! How do you taste the goodness of God? I think the point is to experience him and his essential goodness with all of our being. That's something to think about and to practice…
All the beauty that exists is a mere reflection of the Creator. Even this glimpse of beauty reveals the love, truth, and goodness that is the core of his being. An incredible gift is there, waiting for us. We need only say yes, please!
"But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
"Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
"Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all humankind?"
Job 12: 7-10
La vie est belle!