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).
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.