Tag Archives: beauty

Awareness is All

“Awareness is all” states a bumper sticker on a friend’s car.  I believe this is so true but there is a catch—“awareness” always means to contemplate that our “awareness” is not complete and never will be.  So this “awareness” has a built-in catch-22 so you will always understand that you only see part of the picture. This morning I do think I have some degree of awareness but an important dimension of this “awareness” is that my view of the world is always filtered by biases and preconceptions so that I’m rarely under the illusion that I have complete awareness.  Earlier this morning as my wife and sweet dachshund Elsa sat on the back stoop and watched the dawn unfold, in deep admiration of the experience of the moment, I quipped to them, “Our view always tends to block our view.”  I was aware that as I watched the flycatcher birds cavorting about, scouring for food for their new born, I had witnessed moments like this many times in my life but had never seen the beauty unfolding as I was at that moment.  The process of growing awareness works toward allowing us to grasp our beautiful world in more of its pristine glory.  And I watched the sun beginning to light Taos Mountain for another day, flickering different permutations of shadow and gentle light on these mythical mountains, dressing them for another day of bringing magic to this lovely Northern New Mexico community. As always, Elsa was doing her part to quicken the moment, just setting there on her cushion in all of her exquisite, innocent beauty, licking her ribs and fantasizing about the exciting world she would get to play in another day.

My quip came from the realization that this pristine beauty has been with me from the earliest moments of conscious life.  But like all humans I learned to take it for granted, often seeing not the beauty of the world but my usual image of the beauty, “my view of the view,” not humble enough yet to approach the whiff of “the thing in itself,” less encumbered by the blinders of cognition. These blinders are, albeit, a very necessary part of life but they can become so familiar to us that we never venture beneath the surface and flirt with the aforementioned pristine beauty.

The poet Carl Sandburg understood this truth in his poem, “Precious Moments.”  Bright vocabularies are transient as rainbows./Speech requires blood and air to make it./Before the word comes off the end of the tongue,/While diaphragms of flesh negotiate the word,/In the moment of doom when the word forms/It is born, alive, registering an imprint—Afterward it is a mummy, a dry fact, done and gone.

Sandburg realized that a word is “alive” only one moment, in the “moment of doom” when it is formed after which we will be left only with an imprint.  But this beautiful poem was encouraging us to explore the depths of our heart and discover that flirtation with the pristine beauty of life can be rewarding. This exploration will help us to understand how that our view of life often blocks our view of an intrinsic dimension of life.  This is what Jesus had in mind when he challenged those who live on the surface of life, having “eyes to see but seeing not, ears to hear but hearing not.”


Be Here Now!

This admonishment used to make no sense to me and even used to perturb me for I knew it came from “one of them there damn hippies” though at that point in my life it was probably “dang” rather than “damn.” And, of course it is so meaningful to me now because it is not about “sense” (or reason run amok) but is about “presence” which is a more fundamental dimension of existence than reason. Most of my life has been spent in absence, in not “being here now”, but being immersed in my own little cognitive grasp of the world, a self-imposed prison like the one most people spend their whole lives in.

At present moment I think I “be here now.” I have just awakened and have taken my perch for “bird theater” with my cup of coffee, awaiting my three puppies to join me—two dachshunds and my wife. The darkness will lift shortly and I will again watch the birds engage in their ritual frenzy at the feeders and will be taken with the beauty of the moment. I will “be here now.” I often think of the words of Jesus at this moment, and apply a bit of literary license to his description of “the birds of the air,”  noting that they do not fret and stew but merely go about each day of their life “birding” the world. And I also often recall a beautiful poem by Wendell Berry who described finding “peace in wild things” when beset by despair, wild things who do not “tax their lives with forethought of grief.”

Be here now.

Puppies & Flowers All Over the Place

A "puppy" and flowers near Taos, NM

The “puppy” sends his apologies for the social indiscretion!

Decades ago a friend told of her four year old son casually expressing his delight with a springtime morning, describing it as “puppies and flowers all over the place.” I was stunned that a child so young could capture the beauty of the world so eloquently and create a poetic image with complete childhood innocence.

At times I now see this pristine beauty that he saw and have faint memories of my own innocent apprehension of that beauty, though mine are “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” that Hamlet lamented. Childhood is a magical world and it is sad that we have to say good-bye to it at some point.

But, do we? Well, in a way we do for we have to enter another world if we are to become “human” though if things work out well we will always have access to that childhood innocence though it will probably come to us with some taint of “adulthood.” Children are our most precious resource and should be our number one priority. That innocence needs to be respected as it is the matrix in which the child’s nascent soul, constituted only moments earlier, is given direction and purpose. If that child is allowed to see “puppies and flowers all over the place” quite often, he/she will be able to unfold more as God intended than if he/she is buffeted my misfortune and disappointment most of the time.

These thoughts were inspired by a blog I read this morning from a friend in India who still has that childhood purity and innocence in her adulthood:

Too many good things confuse me especially in May when the flowers are out and wearing Rain, like hi-fashion ear drops. People look great, smiling. I talk to strangers, they talk back. What’s this ? It is beautiful, a Peace returning. Storms wear pretty coats, gray silver lining and gentle breathing songs. Koyal. Milkmen on cycles, newspaper boys fabulous eyes fringed with lash.

I must always go on these walks. I forgave Ms Lily K for the yelling I got flunking a Maths test and how I wept all over my blue pinafore that noon after school, pigtail come loose with shock and horror….

I finally forgave her ; she looked great with the morning light now bright in her little curls. Weird that we remember her curls now, so many dawns down the calendar since that day.

Walks should not be too long. I might bring down all my defenses, all barbed wire and put up friendly posts everywhere… uh. Just a lil walk ‘ll do. Too much heaven complicates this earthling…

(See http://innerdialect.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/too-many-good-things-confuse-me/)

Pupplies and Flowers all Over the Place

It was decades ago when a young tyke’s mother shared these words that her son had just recently spun together. I was just stunned as the image was so compelling and this was made even more so by the fact that the lad was no more than three or four years old at most.

This child’s world was still pristine and on a particular morning he had awakened to an intense awareness of the world’s beauty, later describing it to his mother as “puppies and flowers all over the place.” Now when I heard these words, I had long-since been jaded into submission by my culture but these words were evocative, they were “words fitly spoken” and they reached into my heart. They still do today and I have a hunch they will do the same with some of my readers.

I can faintly recall some of that pristine beauty of the world but only faintly. Very faintly. I think that very early on I had that beauty taken from me; or, to be honest, I willingly abdicated and opted to imbibe of the “well-words and ready phrases that built comfortable walls against the wilderness” that my world offered. It is always easier to do that than to maintain one’s reality, stick to an inherent virtue, and be true to one ’s self.

And look what that kid was doing that morning. He was having an intense, subjective moment and he was able to capture it and put it into words. That was a poetic moment. And here I want to share Archibald MacLeish’s description of poetic moments like that:


Bewildered with the broken tongue
of wakened angels in our sleep
then lost the music that was sung
and lost the light time cannot keep!
There is a moment when we lie
Bewildered, wakened out of sleep,
when light and sound and all reply:
that moment time must tame and keep.
That moment like a flight of birds
flung from the branches where they sleep,
the poet with a beat of words
flings into time for time to keep.


Beauty is always present!

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.  To suffer is not enough.  We must also be in touch with the wonders of life.  They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.  Thich  Nhat Hanh (Being Peace).

Do you ever get caught up in your sorrows and disappointments so that you lose perspective?  I sure do.  But it helps me when I catch myself doing this to stop for a moment, to pause, to exercise “mindfulness”, and appreciate the beauty that is around me.  And, if this beauty is not immediately present, I can recall the beauty that I have seen and will see again.

I have here just one glimpse of beauty that was caught by my mother-in-law’s eye several years ago.  It is stunning.  And deer, and birds, and squirrels, and the rest of god’s critters are just marvelous.  And I didn’t even mention dachshund puppies who just totally slay me, especially the two that I own.