I like to drink a cup of coffee on these summer mornings sitting on the stone wall behind the house, watching the rising sun make Chinese shadows on the back of the house as it shines through the trees. Like a kaleidoscope the shadows move and change position, change shapes, appear and disappear. There is such beauty in this season. The gardens are full of flowers. The fronds of ferns are long and lovely and lush. In these early hours I imagine I could spend the entire day just sitting and watching what is beautiful. The rosebud impatiens dropping its spent blossoms as new buds open. The points of light that glisten in the wet grass. The way some birds gallop when they fly. Watching what is beautiful would make a good day.
Yeats said that beauty is a “gateway out of the net” of this world. I suppose by “net” he meant what we mean when we think of the chaotic, stressful world of business, work, pain, and struggle that ensnares us. But beauty can be a gateway into the world as well, meaning that it pulls us deeper into the world of Creation. Whatever Mind or Sensibility lies behind the natural world has formed and painted colors and light-shows that dazzle our eyes, has trilled musical notes into the wind and water and produced the myriad sounds that delight our human ears, has laced the physical realm with threads that connect our senses to what pleases them and sometimes thrills them.
I’ve come to think of beauty as the quality of delight that we find in many places that causes us to stop and admire. Perhaps simply stopping is also a way of escaping the net of the workaday world as well. Who has not been told to stop and smell the roses? But beauty has a power of its own. Beauty makes us stop. We pause at the sight of a beautiful face, a radiant sunset, the mocking bird’s song in the morning. Even driving a car 65 miles-an-hour down a highway, we mentally stop when we come up over the hill and view a vast, enchanting vista before us drifting off ridge after ridge to the horizon.
Beauty demands that we slow down, pause, and admire. It pulls us out of whatever funk we’ve fallen into. It offers us another world within this world. It challenges us to make what is beautiful part of our lives, and to live our lives each day in a beautiful way. When all is said and done, beauty’s role in life may be nothing other than to make us feel good that there is such beauty in the world.