Sunday, 11 June 2017

Creating Beauty, Being Beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
It's loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quite for us and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quite breathing.

John Keats

I have always loved to make things, and it has always mattered to me that these things be beautiful as well as useful.

In fact I've consistently had a bit of a 'thing' about beauty, believing it to be incredibly important, and then occasionally over the years wondering if in reality I'm just superficial and attempting to convince myself otherwise.

But then I remember the teachings that are held to be true in many cultures, in particular I'm thinking of the Mayan (have you read Martin Prechtel's books? They are full of wise and heartful lessons in so many ways. I heartily recommend them to you) and the Celtic (and I'm sure there are many more), that say that beauty is part of how we thank the Divine for the gift of our lives, being beautiful is part of our job: the things the Spirits love best are music, dancing, gratitude, smoke, love, grief and beauty - these are they ways we 'pay' for the privilege of that gift - the ways we say 'thank you'. Thank you that I live, thank you for my life, thank you for the interwoven indivisibility of all of which I am a sentient part.

Thank you for my consanguinity with all others who have blood, my sharing of breath with all who breathe (human, animal, trees, plants), my being with all that is.

There are so many ways to say thank you, and it seems that gratitude and beauty are two sides of the very same thing. We say thank you through the creation of beautiful objects, and the celebration of beautiful things like simple food,

Straight out of the ground or straight out of the oven...

And beautiful friends

Or the acknowledgement of the beauty in the ordinary - although how something as exquisite as a daisy can be thought of as ordinary is sometimes beyond me. Things seem so often to be valued by their rarity rather than by any more satisfying measure of beauty.

Such as how they smell, (if only you could smell this!)

Or just how gloriously, stubbornly, uniquely, bovine they are!

"Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.
Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."
And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."
The tired and the weary say, "Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."
But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."
At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."
And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say,
"We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."
And in the summer heat the reapers say,
"We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves,
and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."
All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

'On Beauty' by Kahil Gilbran 

Recently I was privileged to hear the Dine Elder Pat McCabe speak - and she touched on the idea that we are here to be beautiful - that to her when she gets up in the morning she gets dressed as an act of gratitude and celebration of being alive; she looks down at the ground and offers a thank you to Mother Earth who gave her her body and then upwards to Father Sky who looks down on her and co-created her. She said (and I'm fairly certain I'm quoting her accurately) "I'm pretty sure that Father Sky doesn't care how much I weigh, but he loves to see me celebrate and decorate myself".  I found this really touching, I hadn't really considered that decorating me could be as much an act of gratitude as decorating what I make (and I'd like to point out here that the gorgeous paintings on my drums are done by my husband Fergus, not by me, I only make the drums and rattles - so I'm claiming a part of the creation of their beauty, but by not means the majority of it).  And I'd like to invite you to come with me on a journey of gratitude and beauty - one that feels pretty revolutionary in these times where beauty is defined so narrowly by mainstream western media.  I've taken to wearing what the hell I like and to shouting down the voice that says I'm too old, too fat, too English, too whatever to wear whatever it is. It's fun, it's full of the joy of being alive, full of gratitude for the gift of my life and the gift of my body, and I love it.

So come with me - be Beauty, be Gratitude. Be full of the joy of being alive!

The water's warm......

and there are cakes. ;-)