Beauty

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You know that assumption you are making when you have a little knowledge and it seems like a lot of knowledge and you don’t know what/that you don’t know?

No? Let me elucidate

I was browsing in an op shop, as you do I saw this painting, of a girl looking into the distance from a window, over a body of water. It caught my eye because of the simplicity and the beautiful lines and the colour (blue). So I picked it up and got the shock of the day when I saw the signature: Salvador Dali. No, I didn’t think I got an original, it was just that as a young teenager I read his autobiography and saw some of his more famous works, and there was not much of what I would call ordinary in either Which meant that I thought a mad genius could only possibly create the same type of work over an entire career. Presumptuous, much?

So I bought the painting; it will join the growing body of paintings and prints and art books that start to clutter my house. And I started considering beauty.

I make this difference between natural and human made beauty. A quirk, I am sure, but one that sees me in rapture seeing mountains but indifferent to paintings of the same. Or loving the description of Yorkshire moors in “The secret garden” but unsure whether I would like them if I actually saw them… I plan to put this to the test one day!

It’s difficult when you can’t describe beauty. Words come easy for paintings and books and people and nature. Music though… I just can’t find them. And I can’t get into theatre, although I have watched several plays on TV that have changed my life… to see the play on the stage with other people around feels embarrassing – another quirk 🙂

I pay attention to beauty. It has never occurred to me not to, probably because I started young. I had help, of course. My house growing up had art books and stamps and china and crystal. No, we didn’t have that much and not luxury items as such, but enough to look through a porcelain plate to the translucent world beyond. Enough to listen to the sound of crystal. Enough to figure out I really like figurative art. And then again, I lived in a country that had both natural and human made beauty galore (ugliness, too, just for comparison). So it wasn’t difficult to admire fields of wheat with poppies, corn flowers and corn cockle. Or a crisp winter’s day with hoar frost sparkling under a bewilderingly blinding sky. Or cathedrals with avenues of scented roses, perfect for a best perfume competition. Or paintings that would move one to inspiration. The first blooming tree in spring, the lime green new foliage of oaks, magnolias in the inner courtyard of the university, night near the sea and people when you get to know them… and still so much more to see, so much more beauty to experience!

A story I once read said that that elves were immortal because they fed on beauty…

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Hobby

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Interesting to note the link with horses and names… why am I so fascinated by the root and original meaning of words we use nowadays? Is it the connection with the past I am looking for? Is it just curiosity?

Let’s talk frequency here though.

Connecting with people, reading and thinking are activities that I perform every day, both at work, before and after it too Isn’t it strange that work (in the sense of “job”) relegates everything else in second place? Isn’t it sad that, while I chuckle at the absurdity of doing my job without that triad, there are way too many people who have to? Is this why we have been given life and minds and souls and spirits?

But I digress.

Second tier are the activities that, with short interruptions, are part of my life. Listening to music, being outside in the garden/bush/forest, writing. Sometimes I stop these because I am stressed out – I am reliably told that’s unusual because they are supposed to help with de-stressing; it’s just that for me they are my normality, and stress is taking me out of it. The only other time when I stop these activities is when I am involved in one of the third tier activities.

These last are varied, short lived, intense and cyclical. I get interested, I start researching and accumulating materials, I get very involved very quickly in performing that activity… and then it passes just as quickly, only to reappear in a couple of seasons or years’ time… which means that I tend to stock up equipment. Let’s see: loom weaving, sewing, mosaic, crochet, dancing (oh, wait, that might have to go up to second tier… I don’t do it because I don’t have time or a partner), de-cluttering, jigsaw puzzles, food experimenting, preparing natural skin products and medicine, looking at architecture and house decorating, learning to play an instrument etc.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I tend to become fascinated by activities with very much visible potential results, whereas my usual activities tend the other way. I am also very much aware of the short and cyclical nature of them. I am starting to use this to my own advantage – shameless opportunist that I am! For example, I am currently in a decluttering phase (my husband thanks you, Marie Kondo! 😛 ) so I am pushing myself every minute I can spare as I know it won’t last long and I want to get as much done as possible. But there is this pink cotton tape that might just become a very pretty dress for the little one just as soon as I can get my hands on a crochet hook that thick. And there is that keyboard piano I saw going cheap… and those old decorative tiles I hid under the bookshelves…

Did you know that at least one course assessment is due this week?

Mayhap I am just procrastinating?

Shield

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For once, this word is not derived from Latin. I know, amazing, right? 🙂

But oh, the meaning! Ah, the meaning! Yes, protection, but actually it means to divide, to separate. So result aside (protection), the intent is to keep the distance. It may seem I am making too much of it, but my infamous defence walls have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I need them, but the idealist in me rues that need. In my struggle for connection, how could I not regret (note, regret, not resent) the very thing that protects me? The mask, the quick quip, the attack, the logical analysis… so many ways of saying “I do not trust you to take care with my soul” therefore “you stay away, there where I can see you and watch your every move” because the alternative is to get my soul damaged by the same carelessness with which I raise these walls… wait, what?

Hmm, yes, I guess that makes sense, that we all have walls. It comes I think from the loss of innocence which then translates into a certain cynicism regarding people in general, although we do try to define the breadth of that mistrust.

From the Platonic halves to the Babel tower, we have struggled with the separation, with the difference, with the mistrust. We have found ways around the worst of it, too, in enlightment, in agape, in religion. Using them as shields. Unable to overcome the separation, we have built bridges and crossed them when at all possible. We have learnt to accept the separation and, in the course of a normal life, many of us don’t even struggle anymore. After all, what can be the point, when this is how it is, when there is no point to fight, when this is what we are fated for?

We have built our societies around it. We praise the separation and teach our children to respect it. Because, I assume, of death. Which we have demonized as the final separation (although even then we have attempted to build bridges).

Is this, then, the best that we can do? Love, learn, pray, then succumb to death? Build walls so that the words of our loved ones don’t harm too much? Struggle to keep our selves (bodies, but spirits, too) intact because we cannot even contemplate the alternative?

Hey, wait a minute!

Hey, wait a lifetime, you mean! For we are not born with those walls, yet few go out of childhood not having them. Those we call simple, naïve or angels. That innocence, again. I struggle with it.

And yet I am no stranger to the one thing that makes those bridges possible, that looks at separation and, if we but let it, has us trying again and again to cross.

I am talking, of course, of hope.

It is one of those things (like life, and freedom, and learning) that would look mighty strange were it extinguished.

History

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I was somewhat confused last week for a couple of days. They were not good days, to be fair. I was walking in the old part of my town, where houses sit in quaint or highly maintained beauty. I like old houses, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in one. I love the quality of materials, the ornate details, the spacious feel of them, the established gardens. I wouldn’t want to take care of one by myself though, they were not meant for it and I would end up resenting it.

But I digress…

I was confused because here I was, watching history, surrounded by it, and yet I longed for history with everything in me, until it was painful. It took a lot of walking and analysing to figure out that, like beauty in another article, it was the degree of history, for want of a better word, that I was getting all muddled up about. Let’s see if I can explain.

I live in a very young country, set on very young land. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living here and there is something to be said about the rebellious certainty of youth, children and teenagers alike. When I arrived here, I was in human years a bit older than this country. But human years being what they are, I am now much older than this country. A different generation already. Hence part of my discontent. From peer I feel now like a parent, wanting to guide, to teach, to shelter. If you have teenagers you know how well that will go down

I am grumbling, I know. There is nothing to be done, there is no substitute for time and experience both. So there is no fault. It’s just that, human years being what they are, I will be long gone before anything changes, and that is annoying

The confusion I felt was exactly this generation gap. The houses I was admiring are old in human years alone, and even then just barely. The history I was longing and yearning for goes a lot further back. Not just in human history, but sheer age of the land. Something to lean on to without feeling guilty I suppose

I can see only two ways forward. No, I am not going to get over myself. Denying a need does not a content human being make!

First of all I can get closer to the natural world of this country, especially as represented in the myths and legends of the native people. There is, after all, a time line of nature that might even be called permanence in our language.

The second thing I can do is travel to a place that has the history I need. Like burnt out execs blobbing in an all-inclusive resort I can also go to get my fill of history in older countries set on older land.

Sounds simple and in a way it is… now for the waiting until money and other things line up… maybe start with a passport as my Christmas present?

Mountain

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I grew up on the plains, near the river. I know the impossibly wide stretches of land that call the eyes to reach further, and then further still.

I live a few minutes from the sea. I know the foam of the waves giving shape to the wind, and the reflections of the sky in the water.

I want to plant a forest. I know the way the canopy breaks up the sunlight and the branches fluttering their leaves make me tip my head up and name their colours.

But I am mountain people. Born as I was, growing up as I did, living as I do, with the plans that I have… that has never changed. I remain of the mountains, and the mountains are calling.

One in particular, the one nearby, is in many ways a representative. I always think of this mountain as masculine. It’s a volcano, therefore younger than most mountains I have seen. Much, much younger than the mountains I always longed for. But he allowed me a home, and thus became the axis of my life. Loyalty and awe started it, then a better understanding therefore love grew alongside those. Confidence, too, now that I think of it.

I am happy today, and walking fast to contain the feeling (at least in public), I was watching this mountain. The snow glowed pink in the sunset, then faded into blue. The beauty replaced the human aloneness, that sharp tone that gives happiness its actual power. Beauty beyond humanity however, notwithstanding the eyes that measured it. And yet I was happy, so I couldn’t think of myself as lacking beauty – a human quirk, I am sure 🙂

So I talked quietly and acknowledged that in my mortal pride I can still recognize the degree of beauty we’re talking about.

You see, I have always felt this mountain as alive and awake and aware. Powerful, oh yes, and sacred to its original people. Not suffering fools gladly, and very much particular about the people who are allowed to climb. With sacred springs and odd far-seeing faces, with a terrible temper and a pleasant disposition 🙂

Whimsy, but then symbols are allowed for the people who choose them.

I am living here, near this beautiful mountain.

I am trying my wings around him, wobbly flight then sure gliding. There will be many more mountains. In my native country, I hope. In places I read about and love, with mountains so old that even myths are becoming new stories again. In places where autumn cloaks the mountains in colours that reach into the soul. I will see his brother through the drifts of sakura flowers.

And then I will come back, and the first sighting after the long travel will be the same:

Beautiful

Calling

Home

Contrast

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Rocket science is supposed to be hard: to learn, to apply, to justify. In contrast (this is a straightforward word that doesn’t seem to hide anything) the intimate life of people, including one’s self, should at least be perceived as easy. Which, really, only begs the question: why are people so determined to compare apples and oranges? Maybe it is the “new” brain dismissing and rebelling against its forebears

If they have anything in common though, both rocket science and self/social awareness require prolonged, persistent application, taking over for a while life itself. And truly, I believe that we need to do both, just at different stages of our lives.

For instance, while rocket science is the domain of university life, the other subject belongs to the teenage years. This may seem a bit strange, given the research outlining that the brain is under construction during those years. But social and self awareness are, in my opinion, the “construction” part. Not hard to see: the reading, the all night talking, the constant challenge of rules, the risk taking. The absolute self-absorption, the realization of untold power… challenged by the painful vulnerability to each and every outside prod.

I was lucky (no, really?) that I was expected to “know thyself”, that I had books and people and an environment safe enough that I went through my teenage years while not suffering more than the minimum possible.

I emerged clutching my prize, so to speak. I had hope, I had faith, I had love, to quote one of my Christian friends. I had them literally, not in any religious sense, although religion has also played a big part in the making of this agnostic evolutionist with eyes firmly fixed on humanity.

That learning stood me in good stead. Years later, when adulthood seems too much like hard work, when I crave solitude and the meeting of souls, when conversation of any depth is much rarer than I would wish for, chafing at obsolete rules, I deem myself lucky. For I know the contrast, I know what we are capable of. I know the potential that is in us. Lost under routine and poorly understood responsibilities, there is so much more to us than just that great leveller, the daily struggle.

So the plan for today is to have deep conversations with people I love. To re-arrange the clothes’ horses to allow room in the lounge, so that the pacing can resume in glorious solitude, late at night. To read a few pages at least of a book that doesn’t expect anything less than total involvement.

And you know what? I will do it, too!

Unreasonable

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I want to find that one person who understands me at each and any moment in my life. Never mind that I sometimes need years to understand myself. Never mind that I have so many people who understand a part of me, because, after all, we are not living each moment to its fullest and when we need to talk we usually limit ourselves to one part of who we are. Nevertheless, yes, unreasonable of me, I want to find that person.

I want to listen to your words and know who you are. Never mind that I see your actions and they speak true. Never mind that I have enough understanding to know that your words can be a lot harsher than your thoughts ever are and as far away from your actions as it’s humanly possible. I know, unreasonable of me!

I want to see your beauty in all its difficult glory. Never mind that you think yourself ugly, silly, dumb and difficult. Never mind that you travel to exquisite places and the beauty doesn’t lift you because you feel it is so far beyond your reach. I will get impatient and tell you off for hiding under conventional standards because yes, unreasonable of me, I want to see your beauty!

I want to feel everything. Never mind that I am out of practice, never mind that there are some things I cannot feel for various reasons. I am made to feel, I am made to experience the retreat of reality under the weight of feelings. Never mind that in the routine of life feeling like this is dangerous for peace of mind and for peace in general! Despite all this, unreasonable of me, I want to feel everything!

I want to reach out and take what I need without apologizing, without even asking for permission. Never mind that life isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if life was like that, the world we live in isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if the world we live in was like that, asking for permission is always a good idea! No, I don’t want to come back to reality! Unreasonable of me, I want to take!

I want to share with you. Never mind that there are no words for the first buds on the tree opening up. Never mind that there are no breaths deep enough for the sky disappearing into shades of clouds above the mountains. Never mind that there is no heart rhythm enough for that book, that movie, that concert. All this notwithstanding, unreasonable of me, I want to share with you.

It should come as no surprise that the only constants are you and me…. and my unreasonable entitlement!