Finding and Noticing Beauty

Tulips on the median divide

Yesterday, as I drove my granddaughter to work I saw a beautiful burst of flowers on the median divide. For a minute, I thought they were artificial. They were so beautiful I had to stop to take a picture on my way back home. (The picture doesn’t do it justice.) I began to wonder how long had those flowers been there. After all, we take the same route several times per week.

Have you ever been a passenger riding your usual route and seen something you never noticed before? That happens in my family all the time. My mom will point out a house, or a tree, or a construction project, and ask, “when did they put that there,” or “was that always there?” You seem to notice more when you are not driving. For some reason, your mind is not reoccupied with where you are going and what time you have to be there. Sometimes that can be pretty scary. I’ve had moments when I have no memory of how I got to my destination. I call that automatic pilot.

How may times do we pass beautiful, wondrous, things and never see them at all? How often does “automatic pilot” cause us to miss the world around us? Needless to say, I don’t have the answer to those questions, but I do have a few suggestions. My suggestions start with intentionality. I have a friend who is very big on intentionality. She says that your intentions direct your outcomes, even in how you feel at a given time. If you make joy your intention as you attack a project, you are more likely to experience joy. (I’m sure I didn’t do a good job of explaining that; forgive Carla.) So why not be intentional about noticing beauty?

Take a leisure walk around your neighborhood. Look at the houses. What color scheme do you like best? What’s your favorite architectural structure? Depending on the time of day, you may see birds, rabbits, or people walking their pets. Take a moment to observe these things. Perhaps, you can’t walk around; try sitting by a window. Observe the sky, the trees in your yard, and your neighbors. Look at the lawns, the bushes, their flowers, or the slope of the property. Try standing in your driveway. Look for bugs, ants, or flying insects. You may luck up and see a butterfly or a humming bird.

Here’s a favorite of mine. Watch children at play. I’m always amazed at the expressions on my young children’s faces. They laugh with their whole bodies. They are fully engaged with their toys, their pets, and each other. Concentration ripples across their foreheads, and their eyes twinkle with excitement. They find such joy in the simplest things – things I take for granted. You can see things so differently just by asking a child, “what’s that?” (One thing I love about working with children everyday is experiencing things anew when I see them through their eyes.)

Another way to notice beauty is to look directly at people when you’re talking to them. (That used to be a given, but I’ve noticed it’s not anymore.) I’m not talking about making eye contact, although that’s important. I’m talking about really looking at people. I’ve noticed nice haircuts, professional makeup, crooked smiles, distinguished lines and wrinkles, beautiful male eyelashes, elegant fingers (what my mom calls “piano fingers”), flashes of humor in smirks, and the changing color of hazel eyes. I also notice colors – colors of clothes, shoes, skin tones, jewelry, and teeth; not to mention body language that speaks volumes. There are some truly beautiful people in the world.

Beauty doesn’t have to be something extraordinary. The standard for beauty is personal. The things that make you smile, or feel awe, has nothing to do with what others think or feel. My favorite color is royal blue; every shade of blue is nice I suppose, but royal blue is my magic. (By the way, it’s not a color I look good in, but I still love it.) Unless you take the time to notice beauty you may never know what opens your personal pleasure.

Years ago when I was dating my husband we were traveling down the interstate on our way to God knows where. I distinctly remember him pointing out the trees on the hillside to me. He said something to the effect of wishing he could capture all the shades of green in his paintings. (My husband is a fine artist.) I looked at those same trees and saw green – no shades, no variations – just green. I told him this. He told me to look carefully, more closely. I remember staring out the window for what seemed liked forever trying to see what he saw. It didn’t happen for me that day. Many months later (maybe years), I saw it. Now I’m always looking for the colors of nature including the various colors of green.

Noticing natural beauty helps us to personalize the things that we enjoy, as well as the things we want to share with others. Noticing beauty adds to our lives; it nurtures our minds and hearts. Beauty dispels the ugliness and dirtiness of the world. (Just looking at those flowers on the median took me away from the virus for awhile.) We don’t have to buy into the manufactured ideas of what beauty is; we can intentionally establish our own standards.

Beauty is all around us. Remember to look around and observe the good things even in critical times like these. You may be surprised at what you see.

The challenge is to look for Beauty in the most ordinary places. Available from Amazon.com

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