Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Things

Tonight was a beautiful time for a walk. Much of our snow has melted, leaving bare patches that awaken faint memories of what summer is like! The sky was crisply clear, which meant the sunset wasn’t too spectacular, but sometimes cold winter sunsets are beautiful, just because there is such clarity and simplicity in the colors, various shades of blue and grey, with blushing hints of salmon color near the horizon.

After tramping around in the high pastures, I went down to the pond, which I have rather neglected in my photography this winter. Locked in the colorless chill of winter, the shapes and textures of the ice and snow and weed stalks, became distinctive. It was a beauty which blended perfectly with the simplicity of the evening.

I was sorely tempted to go out on the glossy ice, but not being sure that it was thick enough, and being alone, I decided not to risk it. Instead I made myself look like an idiot crouching down in the grass and weeds at the edge, photographing all sorts of commonplace plants.
I’ve never been an antiques person. But I do have an interest in old things. My life is largely spent with elderly people, and it has been a very enlightening experience. At the end of life, like at the end of a cold, clear winter day, distracting details and embellishments are stripped away, and the important things come into focus. Summertime colors have fled, and only the substance remains. Sometimes, ornate roses fade, and all that remains are thorns, hidden until now by foliage and brilliant hues.

But sometimes when verdant colors have been drained away, and the glossiness of vibrant life has been rubbed off, a new beauty emerges, simpler and sturdier. It is the same beauty that fascinates me about other old things, like the dried grasses that I was photographing tonight. Their beauty is in their simplicity, in the fact that when all ornament is stripped away, they are innately lovely.

I’ve met people like that, too. Their physical glory, like the flower of grass, has withered. Their muscles have shrunken, their cheeks have faded, their chins have sagged, their hair has lost its shine. And yet no one would call them unattractive, for they have a truer beauty that attracts every person who spends a few moments with them. And just as they were radiant in youthful vitality, they are radiant in happy peace.

If only we had a right sense of beauty, we would save ourselves a lot of stress in front of the mirror in our young years, and a lot of mourning in front of the same mirror in our older years. Perhaps it would be a good thing for all of us to spend more time on our knees in the snow, discovering the beauty that is unveiled by winter.

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