Looking through my photos on my phone, I can go days without taking one picture of something beautiful.
On Halloween, for my costume as an entrance ticket to a zoo I wore black pants, a black sweater, and a black fleece to make a neutral background. In essence, all the black I own.
I am drawn to color. When the Velvet Ashes leadership team met to film a session for the Commune Retreat we were asked to wear neutral colors. My brain processed “neutral” as “solid” colors and I showed up with a hot pink sweater. I remember the sinking feeling I had when I realized my mistake, but since I wasn’t at home, hot pink it was.
Working in the yard, getting the gardens ready for winter, I am surrounded by brown. Dead leaves. Dead branches. Dead stems. Dying grass. Fading flowers. Slowly the world is putting itself to bed.
Now is the liminal time between the beauty of a winter morning and the beauty of summer. While I have grown to appreciate the rhythms of the seasons, I do not naturally think of this time of year as beautiful.
When I first became #DistractedByBeauty it was in summer. Working on our back deck, I glanced at a pig flower pot next to me and was struck by my utter oblivion to the beauty next to me. What a cute pig. What a colorful flower. I thought. What else am I missing because I don’t even think to look around me?
Thus began my tuning in. My noting of beauty. My looking for it in odd places.
But not now. Not in the brown. Not in the fading world.
God and I have been talking about where I see beauty. For me, summer had to be the entrance for beauty. I can guarantee you I would never have thought “What a cute pig. What a beautiful dead flower.” Sitting outside even on a warm day in late October. To tune in to the beauty frequency in my life, I could hear it clearest in the summer.
But just like on a road trip before satellite radio, when as you left one area the reception became fuzzy, I find I can’t see beauty without squinting eyes. On this journey, God is reminding me that beauty can be seen and heard on different frequencies, but I have to be willing to change the dial.
This week I gave a Thanksgiving Day lesson to visiting Chinese scholars. It is eye opening to see your culture through the eyes of others. The number one question they ask me before I begin the lesson?
Always something related to Black Friday.
They love shopping. I can’t fault them. The chance for deals on gifts to take back to China, a gift giving culture, is important. It matters.
But I heard myself saying an unexpected truth today as I taught on modern ways of celebrating. I knew I had to mention Black Friday because the Chinese believe it is the most important part, to not mention I, I lose credibility. We touched on Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday (Black Friday), Monday (Cyber Monday), and Tuesday (Giving Tuesday) and the evolution of the four days. They know of Black Friday the best, Thanksgiving second, but had not heard of Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday.
“A culture that only emphasizes deals and consumption cannot be very deep or very great. I know you love Black Friday, but please be people who are thankful and generous as well. If we all do not foster thankfulness to God for the many blessings we all have and if we do not give to others, we will become hollow on the inside.”
If I only see beauty in the summer, in color, eventually the beauty I feed in my soul will become anemic. Summer beauty and the “Black Fridays” of our life are good. But they cannot be enough. They cannot feed the change that ripples beyond what the eye can see.
I am not the only one who needs to begin to train myself to see beauty in brown, dear reader.
In fading seasons.
In what seems dead to me.
Only one of these pictures can I easily see beauty. To begin this journey I took a picture I have shared before. The middle picture I was featured this summer. Oh the irony, as the lessons continue. “Savor” when it is naturally beautiful to me. Overlook when it is not.
But I believe, even though I do not really believe, there is beauty to be seen in these liminal times of the year.
God help my unbelief.
Help me to be #DistractedByBeauty I do not see. Take me further on this journey of seeing beauty, because I need this kind of beauty as well. Dare I flirt with an anemic soul and way of interacting with the world. Amen.
Dear reader, which season is it easiest for you to see beauty?