As the year went along, I started to notice other people were being drawn into the “Beauty of the Day”.
Of course, some of the first ones were my own family members. Sometimes I couldn’t decide which photo I liked best for that day, and I would ask them for a choice. (Funny how they would get mad if I didn’t listen to their choice–and funny how we didn’t always agree.)
Since I often now stop in the middle of something and mutter, “Oh, I have to take a picture of this,” I’ve drawn in all sorts of friends and colleagues–and neighbors, as they have happened across me, stopped in the middle of the road, gazing intently at some random scene.
In early March, while a friend and I were cross country skiing, she observed me stopping to take photos several times. Far from being frustrated at the frequent breaks in stride, she was curious about my motivation. Why, she asked, did I take this on? What caused this idea anyway?
In answering her question, I realized that this idea started some 25 years earlier, when I was a college exchange student in Sevilla, Spain. It was not the easiest experience of my life–far away from home, no money to contact family and friends back home, incapable of expressing myself with any real accuracy in Spanish. I was lost nearly every day. Spain set records for the cold that year–and my host family had no heat and very limited hot water (typical in the area at the time). The worst, for me as a blond American young girl, was dealing with the constant stares and commentaries, which were so foreign to my upbringing. Besides, the Spanish seemed intent on throwing all their trash on the ground (at the time–it’s since changed much for the better).
My poor sense of direction could only be overcome by rote memorization of the routes from home to class. I tried to avoid the dog deposits and cigarettes strewn about, and averted my eyes from the old men and their suggestive actions. One day, in the midst of my frustration, I happened to look up. And there, glistening in the early morning light, shown Seville’s giralda. I’d never even noticed it before, so intent I was on looking down! That day held one of the best lessons of what Spain taught me: Look up.
For many years now, I’ve helped with flower arranging at my local church. It’s not a big task; it requires two vases of flowers that go on the altar each week. I have noticed, however, that it changes my perspective for the entire seven days before the actual task. I notice the flowers around me more. I match them mentally, paying attention to their color and form, seeing what other plants they combine with and how they might look.
I am the most enthusiastic gardener you’re likely to meet… but I fear you may be disappointed with how imperfect the overall scheme is. No matter how hard I try, my efforts never seem to match the designs laid out in garden magazines. I see the weeds (how do they crop up so intently every year?); I see flaws in their layout.
But in the spring of 2014, as I stood our in my Eden, mentally critiquing my efforts yet again, I saw one little flower smiling at me. Intrigued by its specific beauty, I took a photo, and I posted it to my Facebook page. I called it “Flower of the Day”, and announced my intention to look for something nice in my garden each and every day.
I felt much happier about my garden that summer. I don’t honestly think it looked that much better. But I could find good things out there every day, so it couldn’t be that much of a dismal failure.
That was my background for finding the “beauty of the day”, those experiences.
I realized I was doing something fairly profound (in its own little way) when others started telling me what shots to take, pointing out things that struck them as qualifiers.
But when teenagers–like my own sons and nieces and even my sons’ friends–started tagging their posts on Facebook so that I could see it, that’s when I realized that this noticing of the “beauty of the day” really meant something.