Life Art & Beauty

A September Letter: The Tune of Beauty

Dwayne Warwick | Woman in the garden, impressionist scene painting |  MutualArt
“Woman in the Garden,” Dwayne Warwick.

Dear friends,

Life is fickle, is it not?

As I mentioned in my last post, grappling with uncertainty is hard. And there are many unknowns these days. I know this to be true in my own life. Unknowns — delay, despair, death — wreak chaos… and how can one edify chaos? How can one live well, breathe on when impending darkness and suffering hovers near?

These are questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past (uncertain) year. Difficult questions. I think of the Afghan people, living in a perpetual state of fear and vigilance, the world, suffocating from the weight of a virus, and us, dangling in unknowns, and the truth hits me: we cannot control the chaos.

Yet.

We can choose what we water the gardens of our mind, heart, and soul with.

I write quite a bit about art, life, and beauty on this blog, about nourishing the “treasures of the soul.” And I desired to formulate a monthly/bi-monthly newsletter that conveyed resources and practices that I’ve found helpful in edifying my being.

A few weeks ago, I watched a lecture on the myth of Jason & the Golden Fleece. For the sake of brevity, the tale follows Jason and his followers as they sail in pursuit of “the Golden Fleece,” a symbol of entitlement and authority. Along the way, they pass the island of the Sirens. The sirens, half-women, half-bird creatures with seductive yet lethal voices, attempt to lure the men to the rocks. However, Jason was prepared for this temptation. He had in his company a legendary musician, a man named Orpheus. Orpheus, at heart, possessed a voice more profound, more beautiful than that of the sirens. And, as the sacred notes fell from his lips, the sirens’ melody faded away.

In short, in light of the dark depravity and temptation surrounding them, the men’s ears were tuned to the music of beauty.

And that is a practice I strive to apply in my daily life and through my blog. I desire to convey ways in which we can sense beauty (through art, literature, music, and other treasures of the soul), despite the pervading distraction and sorrow in our world.


from the journal

  • “To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.” ~William Ellery Channing

  • What a delight it is to chase a butterfly! Feathery white, free, living.

  • September really is pleasant in the Mid-West. One gains both a bright sun & lush scenery and cool wind.

  • Psalms 130 has been on my heart this past month:
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 
O Lord, hear my voice! 
Let your ears be attentive 
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, 
O Lord, who could stand? 
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, 
and in his word I hope; 
my soul waits for the Lord 
more than watchmen for the morning, 
more than watchmen for the morning. 
O Israel, hope in the Lord! 
For with the Lord there is steadfast love, 
and with him is plentiful redemption. 
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities."

Classic Art Wallpapers
Nasturtiums by Tuder St George Tucker

essays

  • In an excerpt from The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jane Jacobs fights for the continued existence of “old city” neighborhoods in the face of urban renewal projects. She gestures to the community of established city life, old sidewalks, familiar faces, fixed memories, and first-hand experiences of living in an “old city” neighborhood as her justification. She deems this choatic symphony of urban life “sidewalk ballet.”

  • Lucy Scholes reflects on how literature is a guide and solace for living in solitude and the way in which literature has affected her. “I came to London to study literature, so perhaps it’s only natural that my existence here has always been tempered by the books I’ve read that are set in the city, a potent alchemy at work in the particular way in which the real and the fictional combine in my mind. My experience in this city has always been twofold, containing and dependent on both my lived experience and the very real topography of the streets, as well as the fictional versions of the same city I have read about in novels. They intertwine, and in doing so become indistinguishable from one another.”


books

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas. I finally finished this monster and the ending was worth all 1200 pages. A tale of revenge and redemption, profound grief and profound hope. Edmond Dantès’s character and the conflicts he undergoes is captivating. The volume is thrilling and very worthy of the five stars I give it. Perhaps a good book to put on your vacation to-read list. 🙂

  • The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side and The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie. In these two underrated Agatha Christie novels, Christie’s genius is in full display. I loved how developed the main characters were as opposed to some of the other Christie novels I’ve read and, of course, Miss Marple’s deep knowledge of human nature and sharp wit continued to captivate me. She really is the best detective. 😉

  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalinithi. A beautiful memoir about a distinguished neuro-surgeon who is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 36 and his wrestle with meaning and mortality. There is more to come regarding this book, but I highly recommend you read it.

Matilda Browne "Poenies" 1907
Matilda Browne “Poenies” 1907

sounds

  • Roo Panes dropped a new song “I Just Love You,” conveying the “why” behind his love and the struggle of being sincere in today’s world. Simple but profound.

  • “Soulmate” by Flora Cash is stunning. I hadn’t listened to any of their songs, but when this one appeared on my recommended, I listened and fell in love. And the music video adds further layers to the song’s meaning as it portrays topics of racism and bereavment. To quote a dear friend, “that was the most beautiful music video I have ever seen.”


poem of the month

"Meditation on a Grapefruit"
By Craig Arnold

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
To tear the husk
like cotton padding a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully without breaking
a single pearly cell
To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
so sweet
a discipline
precisely pointless a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause a little emptiness

each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without.


What music/art/literature has touched your soul this month? What unexpected grief/beauty has August/September brought you? 

Comment or email me your thoughts, and I'll select some (with your permission) to highlight in my next post. 

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2 Comments

  • Reply Aubrey

    Rose Song by Olivia Rodrigo – this song is not only beautiful musically, it has a powerful message
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling – listened to this book for the thousandth time with my younger siblings (you have to do it with a British reader – Stephen Fry is the best!) and I know I will listen to it a thousand more times because Rowling’s writing is so beautiful, creative, and life-giving
    Tell all the truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickerson – a poem we dissected in English class that just amazed me with its complexity and hidden meanings

    September 5, 2021 at 11:45 pm
    • Reply abigailblessing

      Oh, those all sound wonderful! I love read some Emily Dickenson, but I have not read that one. Thank you for recommending it – I’ll check it out. 🙂

      September 9, 2021 at 12:24 am

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