Looking for the Beautiful

 in the Cotswolds.

in the Cotswolds.

I'm in England at the moment. I'm a lifelong Anglophile, and yet somehow England never disappoints. There isn't an imagined England I wish I was in. I love the country, the cities, the countryside. I'm also traveling with my mom, which has mostly-expected challenges as well as benefits. However, one thing I've discovered thus far is that I have a very different idea of beauty than my mom does. I'm sure she's's just as right as I am, since beauty is in fact actually in the eye of the beholder (to some teeny-tiny degree). For example, she favors Hawaiian flowers (who can blame her) and I'm in love with the scale of English ones. There's something absolutely stunning about a beauty that demands attentiveness, even if it does not command your attention. There's something worth treasuring about moments of life that ask for keenness, and compassion, and a second look. There's a temporality and gentleness that I suppose is also brought out by the age of the buildings surrounding flowers and fields. After dinner, we saw a wall that may have been built before Jesus was born, a few minutes away from the house we're staying at. It had a single posted sign telling visitors that it was old. There was no fanfare and very little activity, perhaps because the astounding is made common in England. There's simply a different kind of beauty here (and, of course, it's also summer). 

 Prix Pictet: "Space" collection.

Prix Pictet: "Space" collection.

Today, we wandered the Victoria and Albert Museum and saw some of the best and most important pieces of art and design to ever be dreamed by a human being. Everything we saw was itself, so very itself, that it took discipline to keep moving. There were rooms I had to return to because I'd undersold their contents to myself. At the end of three hours, I was full of art, tearing up at how much beauty a single building could hold, and how much history. I finally asked myself (under my breath, so no one assumed I was crazy): "How does anyone live without beauty? How do the incredibly poor live without art?" (a ridiculous question, given my family history with money). More than that,  I wasn't thinking in the right scale. I assumed that it took rooms and rooms of art to make someone attuned, to bring out the sensitivity to the thing, though I myself had just been stunned by the way brick ages and the color of bluebells. 

 

 

 

The answer to my own question is harder than I hoped, and better: we live without beauty when we do not look for it, and we are all too poor for art if we don't know how to see it. There is a love and grace to seeing what is around us for what it is, at its own scale. There is a sensitivity to the human-created that can be fostered even if only to the sound of someone else's first mixtape. Perhaps that's my new goal: to be seeing what is there, looking for the beautiful.