It’s impossible to resist the allure of a sunny autumn day, so I took my camera with me to the hike and bike trail at Ladybird Lake. Since you never know what will catch your eye, I started architecturally and flowed into the colors of fall vegetation. Rest in joy Chris, remembering your sweet smile and SRV tearing it up at Auditorium Shores.
I didn’t really remember the Pacific Ocean’s booming, rowdy surf and immeasurable depth. It’s very different from my usual haunts in the Gulf of Mexico. The vast horizontal embracing the towering vertical of mighty spruce trees resonates through the coastland in a deeply grounding spiritual wave.
This is what I came for – to put my tap root into the earth – to remember that I am. My reset begins in Forest Park, on the way to the Oregon coast.
The drive to Cannon Beach on Hwy 26 is an easy ride, rolling through sun-dappled forests, reminding me of biking through the woods as a kid in Germany. The breeze is cool, the forest fragrant with earth and the sap of evergreens, and the sun beams through the trees painting my skin with warm and cool stripes. The joy of being a kid – the energy, the excitement of discovery and delight – kindled a light in my bones that flowed out into the woods in waves of gratitude and love.
My first view of the beach in Seaside reminded me to play.
When I got to Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock was just outside my balcony. It is a beacon to people from all times and traditions. The ancient ones abide.
The moon rising over Haystack rock
the waves caressing the shore
bring me back to Center
where I am
The phrase “clawing back” surfaced during the congressional hearings about Wells Fargo bank account manipulations. It refers to taking back a portion of the golden parachute entitled CEOs receive once they leave a company, trailing a raft of shady deals behind, made at their employees’ expense.
Clawing back because men have set the standards, defined the form, the value and their desire to possess beauty for centuries. In this “men’s world”, beauty is visually focused and sexualized. It’s about having your cake and eating it too. Beauty, defined as:
an object that portrays a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
It’s the shiny skin, the package, but mostly the wrapper. We see it, we want it, we will have it.
From 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman:
Dominant culture directs men to access beauty through the other, in sexual union with women. Even inner beauty is largely portrayed as feminine. Those stereotypes are changing, but the current state of political discourse has shined a spotlight on men’s fears that electing a woman President will put the brakes on grabbing what you want. It’s a threat to beauty as a commodity, which is used and then discarded like any old wrapper. Their entitlement is waning and an increase in misogyny and violence against women reflects this resentment.
Beauty is different for women. Women are encouraged to embody beauty and have a more nuanced and relational visual representation, as portrayed in Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc‘s Atlas of Beauty.
We come closer to being in rather than consuming beauty as:
the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).
In our current culture, beauty’s spiritual qualities are largely ignored, save the occasional nature scene or an emotionally tender moment that evokes the union of love and beauty. Again, the visual element predominates but the feelings sparked by love or awe bring us to the threshold of another kind of union, less tangible but powerfully moving. Being in beauty calls us to experience the connection we have to life in all its forms. Less object oriented and individualistic and more part of the greater whole. In a world that seems more fragmented and conflicted every day, wholeness seems out of reach. This has not always been so. This Navajo prayer reflects life rooted in wholeness and in beauty, a more sustainable approach:
Walking In Beauty (Blessing)
Today I will walk out, today everything unnecessary will leave me,
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.
How healing would this life in beauty be? I will follow the beautiful words of this blessing for a month and let my words tell the tale. May your words and your walk be beautiful as well.
It’s always nice to enjoy the trails along Barton Creek in January, when the weather is so very fine. Kids of all ages and their dogs swarm the greenbelt like happy bees with spring almost in the air, sun shining down like honey .
There were fewer people on the trail at the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, an urban oasis in South Austin and one of several ancient volcanoes that dot the area from St. Edward’s University to Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My favorite oak, probably 500 years old, is queen of the forest and was too big to fit into my camera’s frame.
I was coming home one day and noticed a rose blooming by the front door. It was facing the wall, bent over and neglected. When I turned it around I saw the most beautiful bloom and brought it inside to enjoy the life and color of its unfolding.
In these times of sorrow, of war and disaster, let us choose to be healed in many small ways. Thank you little rose friend, for giving me the gift of beauty to remind me that I am still blooming, still beautiful and full of love. Do not pass beauty by as you saunter the world. It will heal our spirits and help remind us of our humanity.
I’ll miss you, Texas
You and your giant clouds,
close enough to touch
Blue sky wrapping round
the mighty oaks standing tall,
like broccoli on the horizon
And dragon flies, big as goldfish
skimming waves of grass,
rippling like an ocean
in the golden afternoon light
I can’t say goodbye to cypress trees
and limestone springs, reminding me
that dinosaurs roam these lands
when the seas come and go
You have sunk a taproot deep in my heart
and perfumed the forest of my mind
Perhaps the most original and influential Greek poet of the 20th century, his uncompromising distaste for the kind of rhetoric common among his contemporaries and his refusal to enter into the marketplace may have prevented him from realizing all but a few rewards for his genius. He continued to live in Alexandria until his death on April 29, 1933, from cancer of the larynx. It is recorded that his last motion before dying was to draw a circle on a sheet of blank paper, and then to place a period in the middle of it.
Cavafy’s poem below is the inspiration for this tribute to our field, which is where I am “In this place”
In this place (1929)
This is my home, the heart of my neighborhood,
The houses and cafes of my quarter,
These are the buildings that stand all around me,
And the streets that I wander every day;
In this place, year after year.
I have recreated these surroundings
In my joy and in my sorrow:
Through a lifetime of experience,
And in abundant detail.
This place has been entirely transformed
Into pure emotion, for me.
While Cavafy often writes from an urban perspective, his love of nature shines through in The morning sea, reflecting his sauntering eye and heart, as these photos reflect mine.
The morning sea (1915)
Let me stand here.
Let me enjoy this view for a while.
The morning sea
And the cloudless sky;
The brilliant blue
Against the pale yellow shore;
these colors are utterly beautiful,
As they shimmer in the sunlight.
Let me stand here.
Let me pretend that I can take this all in.
(I will tell you honestly
That this is what I saw when I arrived.)
And I will not be distracted
By my daydreams,
By my memories,
And those images of my past delights.
The first verse of this next beautiful poem is one of the most sublime of any I have encountered.
Beside an open window (1896)
On this clear autumn night,
Beside an open window,
For hour after hour, I remain,
In the perfect, voluptuous quiet.
The rain drips lightly from the leaves,
A sigh from this delicate universe
Resounds within my own vulnerable nature;
It is a sweet sigh, and rises up like a blessing.
My window looks out upon an unfamiliar world.
A murmuring spring evokes memories
That are fragrant and indescribable to me.
Near my window, a pair of wings flutters by;
The dewy spirits of autumn
Approach and encircle me,
And in the purest of languages, they speak.
I begin to feel a vague and widespread hope;
And in the sacred silence of creation,
My ears encounter faint and distant melodies,
I hear a crystalline, mystical music,
From the chorus of the stars.