Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Beauty you see
I am a hopeless romantic. It's not my fault - I was born that way. When the day wanes, nothing speaks to my soul like a cup of tea and a biscuit. The first snow always elicits a flurry of cocoa making followed by snuggling in front of the wood stove reading books or playing games. Candle light defines our winter evenings and linen curtains hallmark our summers. I see beauty everywhere. If I stumble upon an unlovely sight, my mind quickly puts things to rights, arranging things so their natural beauty shines forth. The older I've become, the more I am able to find beauty in most anything, but it hasn't always been that way....
When I was a child, my family lived in one of the most spectacularly beautiful locations God created. Forests, streams and grassy fields were my playground. Mountains rose majestically against a backdrop of sub-irrigated alpine meadows. Moose ate in crystal clear, glacier fed ponds and mountain lions drank from our swiftly running mountains streams. Even the sunsets shone with the very fingerprints of God. Unfortunately, the beauty that enveloped our lives was marred. It was marred by people who chose to live differently than we did.
We moved when I was eight. I was accustomed to mowed lawns, painted houses and tidy gardens. People took care with their appearance - wearing dresses to church and skirts to town. Cars were washed, hair was cut and purses matched shoes. And then suddenly, in a whirl of boxes and packing tape, we were transported into another world. My new world, while full of natural beauty, was rife with ugliness. People piled garbage in their front yards, burning it in the spring and fall (whether they needed to or not). The dress code, allowing for flannel shirts and Levi jeans only, was strictly enforced. Shoes were considered quite wearable until the last of the duct tape wore off and hair-cuts were an unheard of luxury. It wasn't the least bit unusual to see 20 cars lined up in a row at the edge of a property line, ensuring the owner the perfect part should the need arise. Tarps (usually blue) regularly served as roofing material and more often than not discarded appliances provided the focal point for the garden.
My romantic sensibilities rebelled. While being ensconced in beauty at home, I detested the lifestyle choices that surrounded our neighbors in squalor. I equated country living with ignorance and poverty. I longed for the day when I could escape my beautiful country home and could take my rightful place among the enlightened people of the city. Finally, after years of pridefully living among humble country folk, I left to seek the refined, intelligent people of the city. I drove away - knowing I was destined for much more than country life - watching the beauty of the mountains fade in the distance.
At first, I gloried in my new life. The city was exciting - energizing. The homes and yards were glorious and the people dressed with elegance and style. New cars were everywhere and people cared how things looked. The beauty that had alluded me in the country was around every corner in the city, bursting forth in manicured gardens and tailored suits. I was home!
Then the strangest thing began to happen. An odd longing developed. I had the greatest desire to dip my toes in a creek. Truth be told, what I really wanted to do was put bread in between my toes and feel the trout fingerlings nibble the bread, tickling my feet in the most indescribable way. The longer I waited in traffic, or in line at the mall or sat behind my desk filing, the more intense the desire became. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to run barefoot, splash through a creek, or wade through a meadow resplendent with flowers before I exploded. I found a quiet little park not far from where I worked, with a sweet meadow and a bubbling creek and promptly thrust my bare feet into it's cold depths.
From that moment, the cool mountain meadows and alpine peaks began to sing the siren's song to me. The manicured lawns and tailored suits seemed to lose their luster. The pretty houses and elegant clothes suddenly seems empty - soul less. What once had seemed beguiling now seemed shallow and make-believe. Years of scales began to fall from my eyes. I began to see past the tarp roof's and garbage strewn yards. I realized that although my childhood neighbor's were rough and unpolished, they were uncommonly gifted with loyalty, self-sufficiency and country wisdom. They were the people you wanted covering your back when things got tough. They lived life to the fullest, for themselves, not to impress other people and when push came to shove, they could be counted on irregardless of their own personal hardships.
After years of living in the city, searching for true friendship, only to encounter people too busy living their own lives, I came home to the country. I came home to tarp roofs, junk cars and garbage strewn yards. But this time, I came home with humility, not pride. I came home with the realization that God gives us the ability to see His beauty everywhere. I found I had to see past the outward appearance, into the heart of the matter.
I grew up in the country, but gained the wisdom of country life in the city. In my pride an arrogance, I was blinded to the beauty of simple country living. God, in His wisdom, brought me to the city so that He could gently strip my pride and open my eyes to true beauty. He taught me that beauty is not defined by what you own, how you dress or how you keep your yard - true beauty is defined by how you see the world, and yourself and God. True beauty is found when God opens your eyes to His creation and His children.