When John came home last Friday night, we immediately scarfed down dinner and then went for an hour and a half walk with the packs. He’s prepping for a hunting trip and me? Well, I can’t stand to be left out and since I’m also a good helper I put two 8lb dumbbells in my little backpack and walked with him. Plus, when I go on these walk with him, he gets less concerned looks from parents and fewer fearful, nervous glances from children. I don’t know—something about a guy with a beard wearing scuffed up work boots and hauling a huge pack is a little intimidating apparently.
We took a different route on our walk and the change of scenery was welcome because houses, not just apartment buildings quickly surrounded us. We were among new families, new faces, new art chalked onto the sidewalk, new cut out hearts in windows, and new bluebirds circling bird feeders.
The best part of the walk was watching a guy practice hang gliding in a city park. The park lacks a single tree which maximizes the potential for wind; it is simply a flat, open expanse of grassy field. Although there wasn’t much wind by Fargo, ND standards, it was enough for him. We observed him step into and strap on his harness, unfold the kite, align the strings connecting the harness to kite, and then brace his body for the lead-up.
He faced the wind head on, not so much taunting or beckoning it, but calculating how to leverage its strength and power. I imagined he was resting in the certainty of the wind’s coming and patiently waiting for the right time to jump into it. I so badly wanted for him to get in the air. I’d never met him, couldn’t even see his face, but I was cheering from a distance because I was invested in this man’s goal.
In an instant with no fanfare, he sprinted into a gust. When he finally got the entire kite up and the rainbow of colors caught in the wind, I swore to myself that I’d never seen anything more beautiful in my life. He sprinted perhaps only 50 meters and even though his feet never left the ground, it was clear that he flew.
John and I had been speculating about this and that, but watching the kite in the air ceased our talk. It was like watching the making of poetry live and our speculations couldn’t hold a candle to the truth of the poem, to the way our hearts rose in joy, admiration, and wonder at the man flying while the world is falling apart.
This man dares to fly while our world is falling apart. What a display of opposites. This man’s pursuit and creation of beauty cannot be halted even now, even in this weird time. For that, I am grateful because it feels like the world is falling apart and I’m convinced that beauty gets us through in a way that nothing else can or does. It keeps our entire attention, takes our breath away, and makes us ponder—it teaches empathy and helps us understand our place in the world. It makes us care and cheer and celebrate.
As I said, these days the world is falling apart, and businesses deemed “non-essential” have closed. (But how non-essential can they really be because the men in my life look like stray dogs without a proper haircut and my friends are all burning their homemade casseroles? Just asking.). Some of those non-essential businesses are slowly opening back up this week, but I love the fact that one thing that isn’t opening back up because it never closed is the creating of beauty.
People are still creating beauty this week because they never stopped—they’re creating fake news stations featuring only good news, they’re learning how to knit hats for babies, they’re coloring inside and outside of the lines, they’re taking walks around the neighborhood and in the park, they’re flying. They’ve been pursuing beauty this whole time because they, too, know, consciously or otherwise, beauty gets us through.
The man flying in the park demonstrated beauty’s essentialness because for 10 minutes on our walk, John and I were enthralled by his poetry and engaged in a respite of sorts. We weren’t talking about the virus or how people we love have been impacted because for those 10 minutes, watching a poem unfold was what we needed most.
The man flying was a regular man in sneakers in pursuit of flight. For him, flying was a regular thing. For me, watching a man fly was wildly irregular. He was creating poetry perhaps without even consciously trying. That’s what is especially special about beauty. You don’t always know with certainty that you’re creating beauty; sometimes you’re just doing what feels good, right, and true—like flying or running or writing a letter or practicing your gifts. But to others, it is obviously beauty. And that beauty is helpful. It is essential, actually.
I can’t help but think that these days the world is falling apart and what have we to hold onto aside from beauty? How much beauty is already out there? How can we notice it and hold onto it? How can we create it and release it for others?
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