Joshua Tree National Park - Photo by Ron Hendricks (Used with permission)
By Kathy Hendricks
In 2008 my husband, Ron, and I took a year-long trip around the country. We covered over 40,000 miles and visited each of the 48 contiguous states. Ron’s goal was to take unique photographs in each one and, given his enormous talent, he succeeded. At the end of the day, I was surprised by views he captured that had escaped my attention, even though I was by his side. Such is the gift of the artist.
Thomas Moore’s book, Care of the Soul, remained on the New York Times best-seller list for almost a year. It is currently being re-issued as part of the 25th anniversary of its publication. I was first drawn to the book by a description Moore gave of a potential loss of soul. This can happen, he noted, when our lives become completely functional and we lose touch with beauty and art. Such recognition makes creative work – that of painters, musicians, sculptors, photographers, poets, and other artists – essential to our well-being. Add to that list those who design spaces that move beyond the purely functional to that which stirs the soul – the gardener, interior designer, and architect. Then there are those who offer a lovely presence through their capacity for generosity, gratitude, and goodwill. .
Moore’s insights continue to resonate at this particular time in life. While we can lament the plethora of ugly episodes happening in the nation and the world, it is the little experiences of beauty that can restore something graceful to our collective soul. I am particularly grateful for living in a community that cherishes and supports the arts. There are numerous galleries in our small town and a series of concerts that take place in a park by the river each week during the summer. Then, of course, there is a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains outside our window that never ceases to amaze and inspire me. The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple line of a poem or the lyric of a familiar and beloved song. Recognizing beauty and art as necessities is easier than ever to embrace, appreciate, and celebrate.
By Barbara Anne Radtke
Kathy, thanks for reminding us that beauty and art are essential to our personal lives and to society. I have always lived near a big city, so I was mulling this over as I thought about urban environments. Over fifty years ago, when I studied architecture for two years, my first year design teacher talked about good urban design: good density breads culture; bad density breads social contempt.
That comment has withstood the test of time. I always think of it as I drive into Boston. Through the hassle of traffic and sprawl that accompany any urban entrance, the beautifully designed Zakim bridge emerges in my view and frames the city like a photographer’s camera lens. It provides grace for all who enter. The intimacy of the Boston Irish Famine Memorial provides a respite from concrete canyons and personalizes a downtown urban landscape.
Yet, as the art teacher and musicians in my birth family would be quick to remind me, it is hard for music and art to escape elimination when the budget is being trimmed. Often they are seen as non-essential in shaping a student’s perspective on self and on the common good.
What can we do? We make space in our day to let beauty touch us. We need to stand up for the arts. How we do that is up to each of us. Got any ideas, dear reader?
I leave you with two photos of the Boston urban landscape. Both the photos and the subjects are works of art and beauty:
Leonard P. Zakim Bridge. Photo by Karlunun 4/28/2019
Boston Irish Famine Memorial https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Irish_Famine_Memorial