On Remembering Beauty

Nocturne. Trio mit Klavier, Geige und Cello. Simon Glücklich. Oil on Cardboard.

Dear Friends,
Disappointment pervades our world. The whispers of disillusionment and defeat manifest in the faces I pass, the conflicts that fissure the world and my world, the laments of artists such as The 1975, the silent tears of weary souls. I feel the ache of being human. I have known exhaustion, anxiety, fear, remorse, loneliness, and mental darkness. There are sorrows to grieve. Yet, I have also known peace, compassion, fulfillment, friendship, love, and meaning. There is beauty to remember. And remembering is critical. 

I like to journal. But, in all honesty, I am not a consistent journaler. For me, journaling is a space for me to release my emotions, my exhaustion, and all the ponderings pirouetting within me that I cannot articulate in speech. It is cathartic, it helps me process, and it clears my mind. Through journaling, I take my thoughts and anxieties out of my headspace and tuck them in a drawer, satisfied by the knowledge that they are somewhere. This week, after I penned my usual muddle of thoughts and feelings, I decided to pause to consider what I felt grateful for, what had touched my soul. Initially, I thought two bullet points would be sufficient. However, as I reflected on my week, I recalled different moments of beauty, plucking them like wildflowers on a deserted road. 

I remembered the quietude. As I described in last week’s blog post, I have felt wearied by taking care of others and desire to take care of myself more. I acted on this desire, one afternoon this week, by eating lunch with myself. I sat upon a swing that overlooks my school’s ocean view, eating my lunch and praying. The silence, the sea, and the wind ruffling my hair renewed me. I ended the lovely rendezvous by reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. 

I remembered the closeness of friends. I am blessed to have found some close friends in this season. People who value and care about me. People who can commiserate with my weariness and listen to me. People who I can laugh with — for I have finally appreciated the richness of laughter. 

I remembered the cranberry red dress. In preparation for a Christmas banquet coming up at my school, I needed to find a dress. I wanted something that aligned with the event’s level of formality yet something I felt comfortable in. I don’t want to stand out, but I don’t want to fade either. Thus, after considering several dresses, I decided upon an elegant dress of cranberry red lace. I bought black two-inch heels with a ballet-like design to pair with it. They remind me of shoes from a fairy tale. All that is to say, I am materially happy and, in the words of Maria from West Side Story, “I feel pretty.” 

I remembered the beauty of music. I performed my first violin recital today. As with many things I do, I did not perform as well as I did when I was alone. But I am thankful I stretched myself. I am thankful I have the access and capacity to weave music with my own fingers. To have a heart sensitive to its beauty. I cherish the moment when I, tucked in a room alone, experienced the beauty of the music I rendered. Felt each note, each dynamic, each tone that reverberated from my violin. No one was present to experience the music and revere it, but I heard and valued its loveliness. And that is enough for me. 

There has been sorrow and there will be sorrow, but there has been joy and there will be joy. As human beings, we need to lament. But we also need to remember beauty. To remember the ways in which we are shaped by goodness, each day, each week. 

The Clerkenwell Flower Makers, Samuel Melton Fisher, 1896.



"Heavy" by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

What are you grateful for this week? What are you looking forward to this Christmas season? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear from you. 

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