There is a thing I began to do some years ago. Something to lift people up as they scrolled through their FB and IG social media sites. Something to combat the negativity that had begun to crop up there. Something to bring a little more joy into the world. Something to celebrate the beauty within it.
I would post a picture of whatever hat had caught my eye that day. It could be fun, friendly, gorgeous, breathtaking, simple, happy or whatever, it didn’t matter what, just something that caused me to stop and smile. And then I would type;
“#TodaysMomentOfBeauty brought to you by…”
And I’d describe whatever it was that caught my attention in that moment. For instance:
#TodaysMomentOfBeauty brought to you by… a butterfly landing in front of me.
#TodaysMomentOfBeauty brought to you by… chalk art on the sidewalk.
#TodaysMomentOfBeauty brought to you by… the sunset on the beach.
…Or A bird in a tree. A squirrel upside-down looking for food in a trash can. A dog running in the park. A child licking an ice-cream cone. Interesting graffiti on the side of a wall. A guy breakdancing in the park. An old man walking with his cane and his dog down a busy city street. Bougainvillea in full bloom on the side of a parking garage. A heart-shaped leaf. My cat stretching in the sun. The sun itself laying down beams of light across my deck. My husband playing his horn at a club. People dancing as they listened to my husband play. A dandelion just before I blew on it to make a wish. My view from a swing as I flew in the air like I was five years old again. The colors in the sky during sunset. The colors of the sky in the ocean. The ocean itself.
So many things, so much beauty in this world, in so many different ways. That list came out of me in just a minute, and it’s only the start.
Beauty is Everywhere
I wanted to see and share the beauty in the every day things, the so-called “mundane” things that we experience or pass us by every day. It was to remind myself there is a moment of beauty in every day as much as share it with the world.
Recently I heard a new friend read a poem he’d written in which he asked; “What are the gifts given you for free today? Gifts given without expectation of any payment from you?” And in that poem he described many of the same types of beautiful moments in his life. That’s the thing with beauty – it is a true gift given without any expectation of payment in return. It is simply there for us to enjoy, freely, every day.
But some days it’s really hard to see the beauty. I get that. I’ve gotten like that. Prior to leaving for Italy this summer, I was having a hard time seeing the beauty in the world around me. I’d gotten stressed out, overwhelmed, and had to keep reminding myself that beauty is still there.
The Beauty of Healing
It’s hard to see the beauty around us when all we see is the pain inside of us.
Yet it’s by looking up and outside of myself to notice that there is something beautiful nearby that I am most often healed of that pain. Because beauty itself can be, and is, healing.
Healing is beautiful. And beauty can heal.
Sometimes when we heal, a scar is left behind. So often we are embarrassed by it, thinking it’s marred us forever, it’s taken away our beauty and left this mark in its place.
But the reality is, the scar itself is a thing of beauty, for it represents the amazing ability our body has to heal itself, to recover, to overcome and be well again. It shows us where we were once so very hurt, in so much pain, torn apart, broken, wounded deeply… and reminds us of how we overcame that and completely healed it up, restoring ourselves to health. It may not look as “perfect” as it once had, but like understanding the concept of wabi-sabi (look it up if you’re not familiar with it, it’s pretty cool), it is perfect in its’ imperfection. It is beautiful because it is us, whole again. With an X to mark the spot where we have healed.
Some scars are there for a time, but ultimately healing so completely it’s as if they were never there, unless you suddenly remember. But the pain is distant, and no longer affects you.
I have some scars on my body like that…
The palm of my right hand that had been torn up and torn off during a fall, for instance. Only I can see the mark there, which is how it is with some scars. No one would know you’d been hurt unless you told them. And there comes a day when you forget about it yourself, for it has healed so completely even you can’t see where it was anymore.
Other scars are still there, healed but never going away, and not generally seen by any except by those you trust.
The scars from my surgeries for breast cancer are still there, but no one can see them as they are usually covered up. It’s only when I reveal myself to ones whom I love, whom I’m extremely close to, the one who is my partner or the one who is my sister or my dearest friend, that they are seen. And those who see them at that time no longer see them at all, just as I don’t. They are simply a part of my body, a part of all that I am, and no longer something to be noticed or noted.
If I am comfortable enough to allow my body to be seen out in the open, others could see those scars, may even take note of them. But I’d never know, because I’d only allow myself to expose those parts of me when I am feeling completely confident in who I am, and completely safe in allowing that part of me to be exposed. I set those boundaries. I protect that part of myself not because of the scars, but because of who I am.
I’d Forgotten My Scars Were There
And I’ll be honest, there have been times where that’s happened. A natural hot springs pool and river in Portland, for instance, where clothing was not only optional, but unnecessary. There were rules plainly posted, it was for healing purposes, a place to be able to be free. I stood under a waterfall and felt like a goddess, a sunbeam breaking through the clouds to warm me as the cool showers poured over me.
If anyone saw my scars, I didn’t notice, because I’d forgotten they were there.
Then there are the scars that never go away, and are on display for all the world to see because there’s nothing you can do about them. Long after they have healed, there they are.
I have some scars on my knees from that same fall that tore up my palm. Ironically my palm, which was hurt worse and took far longer to heal, as I said no longer has a scar and I forget it was wounded at all. But my knee, which also took the brunt of the fall but had what seemed to be more superficial cuts, continue to display the places where the wounds once were, though they no longer hurt and healed long ago.
I can either bemoan it and try to hide them, or accept them as they are and move on. They don’t bother me, my knees are strong and work well. The only thing are these scars showing a place I’d once injured myself.
These are ironically the scars we often will try to cover up and hide, embarrassed by their obviousness. But they just are what they are, and either you have to accept them as a beautiful part of yourself, or you end up rejecting and feeling shame for them – and shame of yourself.
Mostly I forget those scars are there, no longer bothered by them as they are just a part of the story of myself. When I do notice them, I choose to laugh at them, amused by the child in me who managed to scuff up her knees as she went on a hike one day. I also choose to appreciate my body and the strength it has to heal, and to see these scars as a beautiful reminder of that.
It has always amazed me how the human body can heal itself, though admittedly often it needs help to do so. Such as when I got a cat bite that got infected and I had to get some antibiotics to fight it. Or having the surgeries and radiation for that cancer. Sometimes the body needs help in the healing, to bring itself back into balance, into the beauty of well-being. But given the chance, it can heal all on its own, even after something so severe it leaves a large scar that never goes away.
There is a deep beauty in us being able to be whole again after having been so wounded.
And the thing is, it’s only when we are able to look up and see the beauty around us that we can look within and see the beauty inside of us.
We are able to appreciate ourselves so much more when we are in that place of appreciating all of the beauty that surrounds us right now. If nothing else, we can appreciate that we are appreciating it, that we are noticing it. We can pat ourselves on the back for being aware of it, and we can then take a picture and share it with others, and feel better about ourselves for even doing that.
Sharing beauty helps us bring more beauty into the world, and into our own hearts.
Opening our eyes to what is around us during the stressful times (or even harder, the boring and mundane times) does something else: it makes it that much better when we go out and actually experience something truly beautiful, something whose beauty is so obvious and amazing that everyone notices it.
For instance, going to a place like Italy.
Being in this gorgeous country with its many, many places of great beauty I doubt I’ve heard one person describe it as “boring.” Ok – perhaps my 13-year-old nephew would, but he’s at that age where beauty is only in the eye of a pretty girl or his video games and almost nothing else. But everyone else I know – at least adults – flock to places like Italy simply because of the beauty there.
In Florence the steps of the Piazzale Michelangelo are packed every day of the week with not just tourists, but locals who go there to watch the sun set over the river and see the amazing view of all of Florence spread out around it. The Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, all of the museums and churches – all are there lit up in the rosy golden hues of the sun as it slowly sinks over the mountains rising up beyond and behind the city, reflecting in the winding path of the river as it disappears into the horizon. The crowd cheers and claps once the sun goes down, celebrating another day of being alive and another night drawing that day to a close.
In Verona crowds flow across the many bridges over the river, spilling into cafes, restaurants and pubs all along it to simply sip a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritzer while gazing out over the water and the beautiful city and parks along it.
In Genoa people are drawn to the docks to view the boats on the water and views of the city rising up the hillside behind them, or to the fountain by the opera house to simply sit and have a Gelato while watching the children and puppies play in the waters there.
In Cinque Terre the crowds flock to lay along the private beaches and float in the soft sea waters while gazing out at the brightly painted homes clustered on the hillsides.
In Lake Orta we slipped away from the crowds and into a small village where we were able to simply sit in our own rented space looking out our window at the calm waters below and the mysterious island in the middle of the lake that called to us to explore. We walked along the sea-wall and swam with the locals in the cool, clear waters as we watched storms come and go.
And the tiny perfectly picturesque village of Il Borghetto with its ancient mills took us back into a fairyland of beauty that begged to have an entire grimoire of stories written about it.
It’s easy to see the beauty in these places, in the museums and churches and on nearly every corner of the cobblestoned streets.
However I also noticed how so many people came, took a picture, then walked away. It’s like the beauty was something on their checklist they were able to cross off, before heading to the next location with something else they’d been told was beautiful they needed to see and cross off the list as well.
I realized then that beauty isn’t just something that is seen, that you take a picture and are done with it. Beauty is something that is felt.
True beauty affects every part of your senses. It goes deep into your soul and stirs it up. It touches you on a level that leaves you changed. It is an experience. It’s not just a thing to observe, but a moment to live in.
True beauty has nothing to do with what our eyes see, and everything to do with what our heart sees.
While in Italy, there were times when I wasn’t feeling great, when I was tired, or frustrated, or uncertain. And during those times though I would be in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the world, I know I wasn’t really “seeing” any of the beauty around me. I’d note it, but move on. I was too preoccupied with whatever it was bothering me.
But when I was in that space of enjoying life, enjoying being there, anticipating and excited about the adventure I was living – the beauty around me would nearly overwhelm all of my senses with its’ power.
Both my husband and I found ourselves in tears many times while we were in Italy. Not in sadness or frustration – but tears born out of the joy, love and indescribable pleasure of being in a moment of true beauty.
We would literally weep as the sensations of beauty crashed over us like a wave and swept us up in it into a state of what I can only describe as passion – or ecstasy. It was just that powerful.
There was the moment we watched as a storm began to form over Lake Orta, its dark power slowly growing across the sky, piling up clouds around it until it crashed down with lightning, thunder, rain and even hailstones that caused us to have to run into the nearest little café and order something to drink as we waited it out. It was breathtaking to watch nature take over and then calm down afterward into peaceful bliss once again, the lake as still as glass, reflecting the now calm blue sky once more
There was the moment we finally found our way to Boticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and could only stand there in awe at it. Though we’ve seen it a thousand times online and in art books, there is nothing like seeing that kind of art in person. You can feel the energy of the artist in every stroke, the heat of their soul coming through the vibrant colors on the canvas and out to you. The tears flowed for both of us, but especially my husband, whom it touched to his core.
And I will never forget as we sat our final night in Florence on those steps at the Piazzela Michelangelo watching the sun set, a crowd around us eating pizza, gelato, drinking wine and Aperol Spritzers, a musician playing guitar nearby to entertain – and a couple came up the steps with a photographer trailing behind them. He was asking her to marry him, right there on those stairs, at sunset. He had the guitarist play “Always On My Mind” as he got on a knee and held up a ring, and they kissed while we cheered and the photographer snapped away photos. Everyone on those stairs was in love with that love being shared that night, and the entire crowd toasted them and wished them well in nearly every language on Earth, as the couple turned and waved at all of us, beaming brighter than the sun setting behind them.
And my husband and I wept at the beauty of it all. And then we kissed as well.
I can’t explain it, I can’t explain exactly why it makes us cry, what the power is that we are feeling in that moment. All of these words I’ve written still don’t have a single sentence among them that really captures the essence of it all. But in every situation, in each moment, the first words that came to my lips when I tried to express what I was feeling were simply;
“That was so beautiful.”
True beauty can affect you that way.
It can bring you into a place of such peace, such love, and such joy that you can do nothing but allow it to overwhelm you until your emotions come spilling out of your eyes.
True beauty fills your core and goes beyond to fill your very soul up. Which is a pretty huge thing, since your soul is undefinable and immeasurable.
This is why beauty is such an important factor in life. This is why we need to promote it and protect it.
People often wonder what is the point or use of protecting a particular plot of land, a certain tree, a park, a work of art, an historic building? I mean, why not allow progress to move on and just build over it all?
Why do we feel we need to have tree-lined streets or parks anyway? What is the point of growing that garden in your yard (or on your balcony), or cleaning your house and setting it up with nice things, or even caring for ourselves and making ourselves feel beautiful with what we wear or how we do our hair?
Because, quite simply, it makes us feel better. It makes us feel beautiful.
And when we feel better, we do better.
I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I feel beautiful, I feel more confident, stronger, more self-assured, more self-aware, kinder, more compassionate, more open. I want to give of myself and receive what others have to offer. I want to participate in life and be an active partner with it, creating joy within it. I feel GOOD.
And when I not only feel beautiful myself, but feel surrounded by beauty in my environment, I feel ready to tackle anything life hands me. That is when I feel that I am #LivingMyAdventure and #InTheMidstOfMyDreams. (The other two hashtags I began to put out there, because it’s honestly how I felt.)
We not only do better within ourselves, as in have a better attitude about life, but we do better physically, because we are more motivated to do good things for ourselves and others when we feel better. We are more inclined towards helping ourselves and others. We are happier.
It also physically makes us feel better to simply rest in a place of beauty.
It’s why doctors tell us to “get outside and enjoy nature” when they tell us to get healthier. Studies have proven over and over again that humans, quite simply, are physically healthier when they live and work in places that have beauty in them. Whether that’s psychosomatic or not, it’s a fact.
There’s also the real-estate fact that neighborhoods with more trees have higher home values than those without. In fact, going another step beyond that, it has been shown that homes or apartments that have established, older-growth trees in them (especially well-maintained ones) sell even 5% -10% higher in value than homes where the old growth has been ripped out and all new stuff planted. And homes without any vegetation at all (or in other words, without something beautiful to look at around them) generally sell for the least. In other words – the more natural beauty surrounding the home and neighborhood, the higher the value.
And there are multiple studies showing that areas of a city where there have been high crime rates tend to also be areas with few to no trees and vegetation, parks or otherwise. Areas where the natural beauty has been sublimated. Whereas, again, areas that have a lot of trees and vegetation – a lot of beauty – tend to have lower crime rates.
Now this may seem like an obvious thing; “Oh, that’s because you’re talking about low-income areas verses high-income” – but that’s not the case. These studies were comparing areas where income levels were equal. More importantly, some studies went on to experiment by planting trees and adding vegetation to those areas with high crime rates to see what would happen.
What did happen? Crime rates went down in those areas where the trees were planted. Categorically and without exception. No kidding. Per the studies; “…a ten percent increase in trees roughly equaled a twelve percent decrease in crime over two years.”
That’s some seriously powerful stuff, that beauty.
So you can see why it’s pretty important that we protect a thing not just because it’s functional, or just because it’s old and historical, or some other “practical” reason.
It’s important to protect a thing simply because it is beautiful.
The beauty it brings to this world expands, it reaches out and helps us to handle this life. It brings a sense of peace, calm, joy, and love. It heals us in every part – body, mind, soul, spirit. It settles hope back into our hearts.
It keeps us going when we are tired and helps us take a moment to rest so we can simply enjoy it. It reminds us of why it’s good to be alive in the first place.
Whatever #TodaysMomentOfBeauty is, it’s something that is necessary to our overall well-being.
So today I encourage you to look around and find your moment of beauty.
If you are feeling surrounded by ugliness, try to locate one tiny piece of beauty you can place in your life to enjoy. Maybe it’s some flowers you put in a vase by your desk, just for you. Or a photo of a favorite moment in your life that you frame and set up somewhere you can see it daily.
Maybe it’s patting your neighbor’s dog (or your own dog) every time you see it and getting those love licks in return. Maybe it’s noticing the kindness of a friend, or the help of a stranger, or the love of your child or partner and allowing yourself to simply bask in that feeling for just a second.
Maybe it’s putting on your special comfy shirt that makes you feel handsome, or wearing that beautiful shade of lipstick that makes you feel special – even if you’re working from home and not doing anything more than going to the store that day.
There is beauty around you. Go for a walk to locate it.
When I feel down, one of the first things I do now is walk outside. Not only does the exercise help clear my mind and energize my body, invariably I will begin to notice the trees in our area: the flowers, the sunshine – the beauty in the world around me. And it will lift me up. I may not be perfect after, but I am better. Just like with those scars.
So go out today and find some beauty in your life. Write about it in your journal. Take a picture of it and post it to your social media. Share it with a friend.
And then tomorrow, find another one. And the next day, another one. Slowly, they will add up until you have a full bouquet of beauty to fill your senses.
That ugliness may still be around us, but the beauty can help distract you from it long enough to make you feel better. And it will remind you of just how good it is to be alive. It will ultimately lead you to understand that life, itself, truly is beautiful and made up mostly of nothing but beauty surrounding us.
In fact, the more beauty you see, the more you see beauty all around you.
Which leads to seeing more beauty within you. Which leads to seeing the beauty in others. Which leads to sharing that beauty with the world. Which leads to more beauty existing for others to enjoy. Which leads to there being more beauty to see everywhere…
A cycle of beauty can literally change everything around you. So allow it to cycle through you. Find that moment of beauty in this day, right now, and share it with the world.
#TodaysMomentOfBeauty is brought to you by… YOU.
(1) reference article for the crime rates statistic:
By JEANETTE DUBOIS
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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