Growth is exceedingly uncomfortable. I wonder if it is painful for the trees, too. I wonder if creating life at the tips of their branches is hard. Creating, reaching out, and becoming anew amidst rain and strong winds. The purple, white, and pink tulips rise up during the bitter transition of winter into spring. Sometimes they get buried in late-season snow. I wonder if they question themselves: if they are good enough to be blooming, if they’re in the right place, or good enough to bring beauty to an otherwise gray landscape.
There is a house I walk past often with bushes that are currently in bloom, with tiny yellow flowers and dark blue berries. They are a stark contrast to their soundings: muddy lawns, drizzly skies, strong wind, cool temps. Yet they don’t question themselves. Their blooming may come at a painful moment — a mark of becoming when all is uncertain — but they don’t let this harden them. Their delicate petals are an unapologetically bright yellow in a sea of gray. The little blooms hold on tight as gusts of wind rush past them, daring to rip them away from the branches and roots that ground them. They are a force to be reckoned with.
The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting colder. The sun still has its ways of saying hello.
It comes up at an angle near the southeast in the mornings like it’s peaking in and saying hello to every nook and cranny the beams find their way to. The light even makes its way into my apartment on the bottom floor of my complex — where I’m burrowed and cozie halfway underground.
The sunlight likes to stretch across my kitchen island. When this photo was taken, I wondered how blessed I am to feel this warmth, see this light, and be here.
I made myself pour-over. I cut a pear for breakfast and used a little bit of whipped chocolate honey on the side. I felt grounded and grateful.
It’s one week until Thanksgiving.
I have to work all the way up until Thanksgiving day. Instead of taking the entire day before to do all the cooking, I’m going to take the evenings to cook several dishes for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
I don’t know how it has already gotten this late in the year. I felt like it was just 80 degrees outside, and I was sweating through my shirts. Part of me doesn’t feel ready for the holidays, but here they are, coming upon us as quick as ever. So I’m embracing it.
I’m not always good at practicing gratitude. My mind tends to naturally fixate on the things I want or don’t have instead of the things I do. But to combat this natural instinct, here are a few things I’m grateful for.
The morning this photo above was taken.
Crips leaves and the smell of a bonfire.
Being a daughter and a sister.
A lover who is like no other.
Ginger lemon honey tea.
The view of serious the dog star from my kitchen window.
A fridge full of food.
Coffee with eggnog.
The Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.
Having my own kitchen this year. (Something I’ve been wanting for a long time coming.)
We walked outside at 7:15, the sun had set at 5:30. It was chilly so we laid down blankets and pillows on the grass. You could hear the quiet rustle between the trees.
We laid down under the blankets and our body heat kept us warm. Our eyes adjusted slowly as wel looked up at the stars. They always seemed farther away in the cold.
I was carrying so much tension that day. As soon as I turned my eyes up to the sky with him next to me, the tension started to dissipate. In the middle of November this year, uncertainty is so strong. We had been wanting to go stargazing since the summer, but we made time for it now, as the days have gotten shorter but it wasn’t too cold outside. Looking up at the starry night makes me ask big questions and feel big emotions, most of the time I don’t know the answers to them. This time, it was comforting looking up at something bigger than ourselves. Like we are so small compared to the vastness of the galaxy. Eventually, I could name the feelings of content and wholeness settle over me as I looked at tiny shining specs that were slowly moving across the sky. No matter what happens next week, next month, next year, the stars will still be there every night, a steady reminder that we are small and our creator carries us in His hands. The blackened, starlight night covered us with ease, and I knew everything was going to be okay. I felt at home. This is the wonderful bliss of being alive.
This next morning I woke up and started reading, I came across this quote:
“The sky was enormous, and terribly high. It’s a funny thing, the colder it gets, the farther away the sky seems and the farther off the stars look. The sky was so thick with them it was almost as though it had been snowing stars, and down below us there was a white fog so it seemed as though we were looking out over a great lake. The Milky Way was a river of light…
“We sat there, close, close, and it was as though we could feel the love we had for one another moving through our bodies as we sat there…
“And I prayed, ‘Oh, God, keep us together, please keep us together, please keep us safe and well and together.’”
This is what I tell myself when I’m scared and worried, when I scroll through the news on my social feeds and it creates more fear than my body can sometimes handle.
When fear grips me, I focus on the beauty of my surroundings and the people near me. Whether that beauty is the yellows and reds that are showing up in the leaves or the moment my mom steps through the door at 3 am, making it safely home after being gone for two weeks. It’s the beauty that the moment means that holds me together.
This past week I read Aundi Kolber’s book Try Softer. There is so much I want to say about this book but I’ll have to save that for another post. In the book she quotes John O’Donohue:
“Beauty isn’t all about just nice loveliness… beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming. So I think beauty, in that sense, is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”
It’s not just about loveliness, it paying attention to the great senses around, me, you, us. I want to live in the depth of beauty of the world around me. Beauty from nature and people. Joyous beauty that stems and grows out of the pain and anxiety of this life.
The beauty of independence and pain that comes from an empty first apartment.
The beauty that comes with staying at home during a pandemic, with people who love you and who let you stay.
The beauty of deep roots in your hometown, blooming where you’re planted.
The beauty of the guitar music flowing down the hallway.
The beauty of late nights driving home with my Plus 1, our eyes tired, night lights shining on our faces through the windshield.
The beauty of an early morning with coffee brewing, the nearness a cold of winter creeping in, hugging against the kitchen window.
The beauty of photos taken on birthdays and anniversaries. When you’re so excited or nervous your hands shake resulting in a blurred, grainy photo of the beauty of the moment.
The beauty of days where you get pizza and a movie and cuddle up with a blanket and rest from a busy week.
The beauty of dirty dishes in the sink because after a dinner that was delicious and left you too tired to clean.
The beauty of a backyard full of family that you haven’t see together in months.
The beauty of working through anxiety slowly, surely, coming home to yourself in the process.
Sometimes the beauty isn’t what it always looks like, but it’s what it means. These are the types of beauty I love and I’m seeking. These are the moments of beauty I’m grateful for.
Getting closer and closer to this beautifulness. Each day I want to come near in search and connect with the beauty around me and the lives we all live together on this earth. I feel as if so many people are distancing themselves from each other due to politics and differences and disagreements of the world these days. This may be on the verge of being cliche, but I think this is where we need to come together the most.
In Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Dead Comes,” she writes of living fully present to the beauty of each person and moment of life. Her final stanza ends this way: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
I want to live in a way thats not just surviving or striving or getting by.
Oliver’s gorgeous words here are like a beacon for all of us who want to do more than survive, do desire the abundant life of which Jesus speaks (John 10:10). And perhaps this abundance is not made up of wealth and stuff, perfectionism or business…
but of awareness, beauty, presence, and connection.
This is the beauty I want to seek, this is the way I want to live.