“Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.” –Mary Oliver
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul. (Luther Burbank)
Especially for those of us dealing with chronic illness and pain, and/or mental illness, it is more important than ever that we cherish the little things. For it is the little things that make up a life.
In our society, when we talk about “the beautiful people” we usually mean the well-off, the best-looking, those genetically and financially blessed people who wear the latest fashions and frequent the most exclusive clubs and the best restaurants, etc. The grown-up version of the high school “in” crowd, basically.
But just how beautiful are they, really? I have a definition I find more accurate; and today, on International Women’s Day, I want to dedicate it to the women in my family, especially my Aunt Jo, my cousin Melinda, and the memories of my mom and grandmothers. Because they are, truly, the most beautiful people I have ever met.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known struggle, known loss, and have fought their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
Henry David Thoreau
The technology, speed, and busyness so prized by our Western culture foster a habit of blindness. For all the bustle, a dreary sameness comes to mark the places where we live. We forget that there is a vast depth beneath the apparent surfaces of things.
The eye of aesthetic spirituality sees more than other eyes. Art in general, and photography in particular, helps to facilitate this awakening by granting epiphanies through its transfigurations of the ordinary. We come to know more than what appears within our line of vision.
–Christine Valters Painter, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice
There is great truth in this. I know I have come to see the world differently since I started photography…I was so blind to all of the beauty around me, in everyday things I never saw before and completely took for granted.
I remember when my mom had cataract surgery, a number of years ago. It was a joy to drive her home afterwards, for she was like a small child again, exclaiming that she’d forgotten how beautiful the world was, how lovely all of the colors were; my mom was experiencing the world in a completely new and unique way, at the age of 76. Cataract surgery–having the film removed from one’s eyes–is a prefect metaphor for a new way of seeing reality. A way of seeing with wonder and amazement.
That’s how I feel when I am photographing, for instance, purple flowers from a five dollar supermarket bouquet. Take, for instance, the lovely flirty ruffled curve of their petals, their soft, velvety textures, their gorgeous deep and rich purple tones…I live my life immersed in beauty, chronic pain and depression be damned! The ordinary is indeed transformed.
Photography has helped me to be grateful for the beauty of this glorious, fascinating world God has given us. Sometimes just the act of photographing a flower, a sunset, the smile on my husband’s face (oh my, do I love his dimples!), becomes a prayer of gratitude in itself.
What about you? If you like photography, do you find it has changed the way you see, and participate in, reality? Or is there another spiritual practice that transfigures your world, your everyday experiences?
I don’t trust a theologian who dismisses the beauty of science or a scientist who doesn’t believe in the power of mystery.
Everyday Wonders is currently under construction! I’m hoping to turn it into a website so I can add a photoblog as well as a regular blog. I’m also planning to shift my focus a bit and concentrate more on spirituality (have to use that master’s degree somehow!). I’ll still be writing about chronic illness, depression, everyday life, etc., just in more of a context of spirituality–how it has (or hasn’t) helped me cope, and more reflective pieces. My new look should be up and running in a couple of days!
Thanks for your patience and I hope you are all having the best of holidays!