By Kathy Hendricks
“Beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it.” ~ John O’Donohue
I long ago let go of New Year’s Eve traditions. Champagne gives me a headache and I am rarely up at midnight unless suffering a bout of insomnia. The same holds for resolutions. Let’s face it – a year is a long time to hold to something so fixed and pre-determined. I prefer to name an intention instead. It holds both possibility and flexibility, which appeal greatly to me in this still-blooming time of life.
2024 has been at the forefront of predictions and polling for months. With what has already shaped up to be an ugly mood in the country over the upcoming election, along with the continual newsfeed about raging conflicts, ecological calamity, and ongoing culture wars, the year has already launched in the minds of many as one of doom and gloom.
So, my intention is to seek beauty each day as the year unfolds. In a home like mine, where I am afforded a view of the Colorado mountains each day, exterior beauty isn’t hard to find. What I hope for is the kind of subtle beauty that John O’Donohue names. It lies in simple gestures, gentle acts of goodness, kind words, and the easy-to-miss extension of generosity from chance encounters.
I’ve written other posts about beauty, particularly that which is found in art. As a new year opens, I am all the more aware of the pressing need for attentiveness to beauty. Without it, we succumb to cynicism and a tacit acceptance of ugliness. In a book written twenty years ago, O’Donohue named the calamitous effects of ignoring beauty and how it leads to the ruination of our environment and the demise of our institutions. This makes attentiveness to beauty a pressing necessity as well as an essential nutrient for the heart and soul. And so, dear reader, I hope for you a year of blessing, in which each day brings a renewal of wonder at the subtle beauty that surrounds you.
ResponseBarbara Anne Radtke
Kathy, your draft of this entry arrived while I was marveling at the amaryllis plant on my living room end table. The plant reminds me that sometimes beauty can also be both reluctant and resilient. I selected the amaryllis bulb at a grocery store the day after Thanksgiving. It was in a precarious place, i.e., in direct sunlight when indirect light is suggested; by the door so it was subject to wide and frequent temperature swings. The first leaves and stalk were yellowish with brown tips. It looked like the grocer would soon be pronouncing this bulb as having a “failure to thrive.”
I picked it up and whispered: “I am going to take a chance on you.” At first, the bulb did fail to thrive. It greened up but did not grow an inch. After two weeks a friend said to me: “I think you should give up on that plant.” When she left, I said to the amaryllis, “How have we failed you?”
Then the bulb began to sprout and grow. Its first stalk was profuse with blossoms (six rather than the ordinary three or four), and lush in the scarlet color of its flowers. Its beauty was more fleeting than subtle. Instead of making a quick judgment that something spectacular was over, I needed patience as it gathered itself for a repeat performance. I am waiting for the new bud on a second stalk to pop open with its surprise. I can see it is getting closer to opening each day.
Kathy, I like the idea of an intention rather than a resolution at the new year. Thank you for inviting and challenging us to share in this practice of seeking subtle beauty every day.