Monday, September 20, 2010

Beauty Breathes, Day Two: Flowers, Kittens and Lollipops Edition!

Beauty Breathes, Day Two: Flowers, Kittens and Lollipops Edition!

Today it was hard to keep my eyes refreshed, to be open-hearted. Nothing whittles your field of vision down faster than anxiety and anger. But I am proud of myself—on the freeway this morning, just as I emerged from the tunnel that leads to the 520, I noticed a cluster of dusky purple flowers growing up from a crack in the cement wall. They hung full and bowed like a weeping willow, delicate and bosomy, lolling in the gray wind. That was all the beauty I was able to muster for the entire day, as it turns out, but hey—I'm taking it slow. This is a practice. I need to build up my muscles slowly.

My husband checked in on the neighbors, whose cat was very sick. It turned out not to be a serious disease after all, but rather stress from the recent death of his long-time feline companion, and the subsequent addition of an exuberant kitten named Jake. He said they seemed surprised that he stopped by to check on them. My husband quit smoking a few weeks ago, and the neighbors brought over sour apple suckers so he could keep his mouth busy during nic fits. As neighbors, we are reasonably friendly and we watch out for each other in small ways. This too, is delicate: that proximity and just a bit of willingness yields kindness among those who would not normally ever choose to mingle with each other.

We talked about getting a new kitten ourselves, even though we won't. It's a very cheering thing to consider.

I wonder if I can really, really do this everyday for an entire year. I wonder if it's taking affect yet. I want results, and I want them now. I feel like doing this entitles me to good feelings. Emotional materialism and a bit a doubt and cynicism is already seeping in. Or maybe it's just Monday.


--Kristen McHenry

7 comments:

Dana said...

"that proximity and just a bit of willingness yields kindness among those who would not normally ever choose to mingle with each other."

That's a powerful statement, and an observation of beauty that matches your observation of the flowers this morning.

I am just saying.

And, where is your beauty sit list? I thought you were sharing that today. No pressure. :)

Frank Moraes said...

I don't know quite how to take this. The flowers? Agh! But a cat that is sick because its companion died? That's beauty! Or love, in the Aristotelian sense. I think I need no other beauty.

I will have to check out this compassion project. It's more up my way. There is no doubt, however, that your beauty project brings beauty to me—not in what you write about but in what you write.

However, you are rushing. I've noticed two grammar errors in two days—I think; we need to discuss the subjunctive mood sometime. I'm not saying that grammar errors matter (especially mine), but they are telling. Can you really appreciate beauty in a hurry? And don't you risk turning appreciation into a job? I just had an amusing thought of you two years from now desperately searching Cute Overload for something to write about!

I know what I'm talking about. When I started "My Day in Politics" I figured it would last for three days. After a few weeks I got frantic and started checking Google News every hour. And now I am at the point where most days I just write about my general despair. Now finding plenty of despair material is not a problem—ever!

The Good Typist said...

Frank: Maybe appreciation *should* be a job. Or at least part of our daily emotional hygiene, similar to brushing our teeth or showering. I know what you mean, though--it could become rote, forced, and insincere. Yep, that is a possibility, and this project is about working through all of that along the way; making room for missteps and insincerity, recognizing it for what it is when it happens, then trying to return to a more genuine place, over and over again. It's inevitably going to be part of the cycle, and I am very okay with that.

Your question of "can you appreciate beauty in a hurry" is a deep one, and it's one of worth exploring in the context of the culture we live in, and specifically, the day to day working world I exist in, where everything is hurried and there is never enough time. One of the things I want to write about eventually is the question of how to maintain the appropriate "stance" to carry out this project *within* the context of my life--without having to quit my job or go on vacation in order to recognize and process beauty in the world around me. Maybe a "drive-by" approach is all that is available to me on a particular day, and maybe that's okay--or, maybe it's really not. This project is really about exploring those questions with openness and seeing where it takes me.

I appreciate your participation and your thoughts, and I hope you stick around and continue to opine!

Frank Moraes said...

Like anything would ever shut me up?

I think it is all about connectedness. Thus, again, love. No one really wants to sleepwalk through life, and yet we all do to some extent. But I can still miss the entire world with my shades up or down. It is a battle. I don't want a battle.

Whence comes your energy and commitment? You say potato, and I hide in the closet. You say tomato, and I hide in the attic. Potato, the closet. Tomato, the attic. Let's call the whole thing off.

On another level: I read your manifesto, but I didn't see any mention of the practical aspects of this project. Are you getting another URL. You mentioned something about that.

Make haste slowly.

Jo-Ann Svensson said...

Funny, around the same time you were in Alaska conceiving the beauty project, I was contemplating the magic of life. From the moment sperm meets egg to the day our last cell metamorphose, there is magic and in that magic there lies beauty -- quite synonymous in my mind. There is magic in a new kitten as is there is magic in Frank’s notice of spelling errors. Harder to see in the latter but what made Frank notice, what synapse in his brain gave forth that, aha, a mistake? And what may result from this? Perhaps a deeper understanding of his own psyche or the realization from another that life is too beautiful to waste time on such small errors. Either way there is movement that illuminates the joy of being still enough to recognize it. I look forward to reading your observations, Kristen. It reminds me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – both are inspiring me to seek out the inherent beauty and goodness of human kind. Jo-Ann

The Good Typist said...

Dana-thank you, and thank you for inspiring me on this. Frank--there are no practical aspects to this project whatsoever. Nor is there really a plan. All I have is a manifesto and a dream, baby! And I don't mind if you point out grammatical errors, as I know grammar is your one of your many passions. (I still believe firmly that one day you will meet a nice lady grammarian and the two of you can spend all day reading "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" in bed with a good bottle of wine). Jo-Ann--you, as always, rock my world long time. I will e-mail you soon more personally.

Frank Moraes said...

Well, as much as I love Lynne Truss, her thing is really more about punctuation than grammar. And as we've discussed, I'm kind of a punctuation iconoclast. Well, I suppose that goes for grammar too. I like driving pedants like myself crazy. And Truss is my kind of pedant.

I only mentioned the grammar because your usage is distinctly better than mine—at least in a first draft. I'm not one to kick puppies. Well, most puppies anyway.

Regarding the practical issue, I asked because you said something along the lines of, "I tried various 'whatever beauty' and the URLs were already taken." Did you write this just because you didn't want to have a name that was over-used? Or did I dream it? I'm not really clear, the last 24 hours have been weird, like watching my scratched copy of "Death of a Cyclist" that jumps randomly from chapter to chapter. I haven't been outside in that time. I haven't looked outside. But I'm paying close attention to your grammar!

Sorry.