The faint call of a bird whispers to me as I sit at my desk. Drained mentally and physically from deadlines and studies, eyes strained, I pause to listen. Silence steadies my breath. I look out my window as the evening light bathes the front yard in a soft, golden glow.
The bird trills again, his notes trembling with freedom and hope. Searching… Searching for an ear. A smile creeps up my cheek as exhaustion slips away in that moment.
Quiet beauty echoes in the cathedral of my soul, awakening the wonder buried beneath tides of worry and heartache. I listen to the bird as its voice fades into the distance. The room is still again. But the momentary appearance softened the shadows of the dark world.
This frequent scene resembles my encounter with quiet beauty.
Beauty, as many of us know, takes many shapes and forms. Yet, there is a special place in my aching heart for quiet beauty. Quiet beauty is beauty that does not vie for attention; it is the beauty that is there — often hidden. The beauty that causes us to search, to pause, and to ponder. It is not immediately observable, nor can it be immediately absorbed.
It may be the nuances we hear in a song, the shadow we find in a painting, the whisper of the bird above the hum of the streets, or the small flower in the courtyard of trampling boots and echoing voices. Quiet beauty exists all around us, waiting silently for an eye or an ear to notice.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but quiet beauty disrupts. Not in the jarring way of loud music, but in the way that pierces through the gates of continual absorption and distraction, and makes humans pause.
In musical terms, quiet beauty is the pianissimo of life. It does exist, but its existence is often laced between the grandeur of the world’s symphony and the stream of utter silence.
Quiet beauty captivates people who stumble across it but captures those with ears tuned to it.
For instance, if, by chance, someone’s eyes stray to the corner of a painting and find the soft shadow of an unknown figure or a cluster of lilacs previously noticeable, they may experience feelings of surprise and pleasure. But their delight could not rival that of someone who examines the painting, with the intention of finding quiet beauty, and finds it. The accidental act of finding beauty gestures in surprised delight but lasts only for a short time and is often soon forgotten. But the purposeful act of finding beauty brings imprints a lasting memory on the observer as they continue the vigorous search for this beauty.
Ears tuned and eyes turned toward quiet beauty gives us the capacity to value the small pieces of life.
Like birds, the quiver of a violin reveals to me the sheer wonder of auditory beauty. As someone who plays the instrument, there are moments when the trembling strings and soft notes still every ounce of being. My ears are tuned to the quiet.
Close your eyes, disengage from the world of color, and listen to these two pieces. Listen for the parts of the songs where the music softens, slows, and dims.
At heart, quiet beauty is a stranger to our eyes. To perceive the pianissimo of life, we need to listen beyond the high notes of a song and find the gentle underlay of quiet beauty. We need to pause when the call of a bird sends a ripple through our routine.
Pausing, searching, and listening train our eyes to see beauty in its softest form.