The Beauty That Still Remains

A few days ago my husband's suggestion of a drive in the car to the lake had a ring of normalcy about it at a time when I'm not sure how to define "normal" anymore. His invitation felt like an echo of my pre-pandemic life - an everyday drive to a place where we have walked dozens of times. I settled back into the leather seat with the strange realization that it had been days since I'd travelled anywhere in a car.  The sun's rays cast long shadows as we drove a few miles north. My husband and I talked, our conversation spinning around the mundane events of the day, neither of us wanting to talk about the global crisis that loomed in the periphery of our thoughts with a threatening presence. We were both emotionally tired, hungry for a different vista, and looking for a change of perspective. 

Arriving at Lake MacIntosh, I noticed it was unusually quiet. There was a serenity that seemed to hang in the air despite the fact that fellow human beings wore protective face masks and skirted around each other in wide berths. It was a strange dichotomy. The water surface was almost perfectly still, mirror-like, as it reflected the light patterns in the sky. A single duck cast a wake behind her, as she moved south across the lake, leaving a golden trail. It was a wonder how peaceful nature seemed in the midst of human distress.  

The glow behind the mountains seemed to draw us as we wandered along the lake-side. Being surrounded by daily news of sickness and struggle made me long to get enveloped into the goodness of what I could see, and be held by it - by the golden glow, the mirrored lake, the warm breath of air and the fading evensong of birds.  It was calling me.  I could choose to ignore it and get caught up in the difficulties and struggles of today's world, or I could surrender to the present moment and see the gift before me. 

Faced with this decision, I knew, as always, that choosing would become my battle. My mind would be the arena where fear would try to uproot goodness, and plant itself, trying to bear its ugly fruit.
I think that is why I longed, in that moment, to be caught up in the beauty I was beholding. C.S. Lewis wrote, “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

Perhaps we all dream of diving into a world of beauty that is not miserable, plagued, or poor. Beauty feels rich and whole, Lewis describes it as a bounty, and maybe if we become so familiarly acquainted with it we feel that bounty on the inside like a life-pulse bringing hope. I saw the light reflected so perfectly on the shining surface of the lake, like the water knew how to live in unity with beauty in a way that I longed to.

Time passed and the light started to fade. I wondered if the roots of goodness had been driven just a little bit deeper into my heart, winning the battle one more time. After all, beauty-seeking is a journey comprised of countless decisions to delight in beauty and goodness in the face of our fears. Knowing that the pandemic still raged and I would soon be returning to our home to shut the door again on the outside world, I remembered the words of a young Jewish girl who hid in a tiny house for years in fear of her life.  She wrote, "I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains." (The Diary of Anne Frank). 


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