Fountain of Beauty

The Inspired Life

“The fountain of beauty is the heart, and every generous thought illustrates the walls of your chamber”

Frances Quarles

 

Have you ever been stunned by the spectacular beauty of someone, found yourself admiring them, only to realize that their beauty faded as their spirit leaked through their skin?

Have you ever walked past a nameless face, their outward appearance causing nothing to flicker an impression, when suddenly a light from within them, lit up their entire being with an internal glow that blinded you with their brilliance?

Have you ever been taken aback by the quickness of how faceless strangers bond into tightly woven friendships and relationships of love within the safety of Internet communication? Have you experienced it yourself perhaps? Seen how the lack of physical barriers provided a look into seeing something deeper?

It isn’t superficial or shallow to be immediately attracted to beauty. It is a normal condition to seek what is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. But the eye’s attention to beauty can only see it at one level. The surface level. It is the movement within your spirit, the connection that you feel at the heart level when you connect with someone, or something that they have written, spoken, or created that speaks to true beauty within all of us. Beauty is subjective. But beauty is pure and generous and sharing and open and kind. It is a light and an energy and something that you can feel. You know it when you experience it, even if it is different for each of us.

Beauty glows on the road-lined face of a woman aged and weathered by eighty decades, but who’s heart has reached out and gathered the tired and the poor and the weary-worn and given them back spirits filled with love.

Beauty beams up at you in the tiny trusting lashes of of a freshly bathed infant, gazing upon you as if delight were his gift to hand out to the world.

Beauty radiates peace in times of purposeful acceptance. Serenity and power. Quiet calm. Read in the faces of only a few, who have learned the secrets of the hard battles. The gift of daily gratitude.The balance of knowing when it’s enough. They are the ones you stand closer to, sometimes without even understanding why. Hoping their peace will brush on to you. You bask in their beauty…and warmth.

Beauty shines out of the honest, the gullible, the innocent, the curious, the sunny bright hopeful ones who see the light wherever they go. The big smiles, the bright lights, the energetic, the ones who light up rooms with their glow.

Beauty pours out of the caretakers, the mother, in her many forms, rounded curves of child-filled belly, swaying hips that gently rock infants, crouched knees that forever bend to speak at an eye-level near the floor. Later still, looking up to children grown taller than her, she will always huddle them back, hold them close, hold them like babes in the beauty of her heart. The father, beauty in his eyes, the look, the beauty of the man who knows- it all comes back to him. He holds it in the weight of his shoulders, the crook of his neck, in the way he holds his lips, just a little tighter than he ever did before. He cares. He loves.

Beauty flows out of the small child, who would wish upon a star and believing in miracles, would give you everything, because they have not yet learned to be jaded, or unkind, or to hold back love in fear of running out of it, as if such a silly thing could ever happen at all…

Beauty glittering in miracles, in gardens, in tiny stones, in wishes and dreams, and life and love and every day moments and people

that are right there next to you all the time.

Beauty. An overused word. NOT nearly used enough. Not PAID ATTENTION to enough. Are you seeing the true beauty in your life?

Are you looking for it? Or does it catch you by surprise as you are hurrying on by? Are you looking in the wrong places? Or the right ones? Where are your favorite beautiful places? Favorite beautiful people? What makes you feel beautiful? Please share.

 

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Having Faith

leaving a legacy, The creative urge, The Inspired Life, Writing

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.
-Robert Benchley

It’s a good thing that Robert didn’t find out earlier. What a different world it might have been. Robert Benchley sold his first piece of paid writing in 1914 and his work continues to sell, inspire and entertain to this day.

His son Nathanial Benchley became a well known author of children and teen books and wrote the book The Off-islanders in 1962, which became the motion picture titled “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. He received an Academy award nomination for writing the Adapted Screenplay. His novel, Welcome to Xanadu became the 1975 movie Sweet Hostage.

Perhaps younger fans will be most familiar with his grandson, Peter Benchley, author of the famed novel Jaws.

Three generations of authors influencing our history. What would have happened if he had *realized* he had no talent? Would he have inspired his son or his grandson to become writers? How would their lives have been different? How would yours? Where were you the first time you saw that famous shark rise out of the ocean?

Writer’s words change lives. They change other peoples thoughts, they propel people to action. They make us laugh. They make us cry. Sometimes they make us angry.

Or fall in love.

But I’m not a writer-so you say. Maybe you think you have no talent. Maybe you think the words you have bubbling up inside you are words that no one needs to hear? Maybe you never pick up a pen. Maybe you write with spoken words, or paint or dance or modeling clay. But you do have something to say. And if you are holding it in, is it building up inside of you? Maybe you have never paid attention to it before. Listen. You can feel it. It’s that yearning. It’s that pressure that pushes out from inside of you. It wants to go somewhere. It wants to be heard. It needs to be heard.

 We all have a voice and we all have something to say. We all have questions as to the what and the why’s of this world and no-we might not have all the answers, but its ok to write while we are journeying on, working them out together, forming new ideas, hearing new solutions. Sharing our experiences with each other.

Somebody is listening somewhere. Somebody needs to hear what you have already figured out. Somebody needs a hand up, a little help along the way. Or they need to know that you are struggling too, that they are not alone. They need to know that they are not a lone tree falling in the forest. That you are there and will catch them when they fall, that your words will hold them up-because you have been there first. Maybe all you have to say today is great job or I love you, but these can be powerful words too. Don’t underestimate what you have to say. Someone needs to hear it.

But I’m not good enough.-Yes you are. Write from your heart. Write from your soul. Speak the words. Let it out and have faith that somebody is listening. If you are true to what you are feeling, I promise, someone else is feeling it too. None of us are ever truly alone.

But I’m not creative enough- I believe that true creativity comes from letting go. Not pushing it. Not trying too hard to cram all the pieces together. Get empty and see what comes to fill in the space. Say what if…and let the pieces fall into all new places. Don’t hold on to anything, just follow the wave and it will take you places you would never have dreamed of.

But I don’t have time– I don’t think we have time NOT to. Taking the time to formulate our thoughts and feelings, perhaps putting them down on paper or whatever medium we choose is a valuable use of time that grounds us. It highlights our center, our values, our key trouble spots and the secrets that lie within. Whether we are writing for others, or ourselves, these words need an outlet. It isn’t a healthy thing to ignore them while they clamor away for attention like a nagging child inside of us. Ignored for too long, they become sullen, depressed, hidden in the corner, while we become more and more detached from the authentic self that is our true spirit. Get out your pen! Go find yourself! Go listen to what you have to say!

I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.
-William Faulkner

I have my grandmother’s stories and poetry. Long gone now, she wrote not for fame or fortune but to be connected to her spirit. She wrote her poems to God. She poured out her questions, cried out her heartache, searched for the answers to the mysteries that defied her.

She was an artistic, creative soul. Lost sometimes in the depth of Bi-polar confusion, she struggled to make sense of the ever-changing world in her mind. Through her stories, through her poetry, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will always have a glimpse into the brilliance that resided there. She was beautiful. Her writing is her legacy. Did she know we would be listening? One of her poems, written on a Christmas morning was titled “To my Grandchildren.”

WE listen.

Have faith. Write. Write from your heart. Somebody is listening.

 

 

Before the Play is Done

Attitude of Gratitude, leaving a legacy, self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life

Epigram

MY soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes; every day
Speaks a new day; the last act crowns the play.

Frances Quarles

 

From the first moment that I met Margaret, I was blown away. It was my first day of watercolor class in college and I was anxious, frightened and fidgeting with all of my shiny new supplies while waiting for students and the teacher to arrive. One glance around the room had already told me that I was in over my head, that there was much more talent surrounding me than I had bargained for. The class was a combination class. Newbies like me jumped in at the beginning and tried to keep up as more accomplished artists painted around them. The theory was that by observing others, there would be more growth. Yeah right, I was going to look like a preschooler with finger-paint.

I began re-packing my things. With five minutes to spare, I figured I could withdraw from the class, no harm done and go sign up at the local park district, where I belonged, before anyone had even realized I was in the room.

Then she burst in.

She was tall, and rim-rod straight, with perfect posture that a soldier would pay good money for. She pulled behind her a cart with three large cases filled, presumably, with art supplies and canvases. “Good MORNING everybody,” she boomed in a huge strong voice. “IT is a BeaUTiful day.” she marched over to a table and bustling about in a flurry of energy, began unpacking everything from the cases.

I sat.

I tried to keep my mouth from hanging open.

Margaret’s hair was silver-gray, piled on to the very top of her head, wound in a long braided bun. Her face wore the road map of many years and many troubles, with lines upon lines intersecting with each other. My brain struggled to keep up with the information it was receiving. The hair, the wrinkles, the thin blue skin with whispers of veins running through it, all spoke of a woman at the end of her life. She had to be in her nineties. But the voice, the posture, the energy, the vibrancy which radiated out of her being screamed No way. This is youth, not age, she can’t be as old as she looks.

I was wrong. She was 93 years old.

The story of Margaret unfolded bit by bit that semester. I learned more about the illusion of age then I did about how to be a great painter in those 16 weeks. And I was grateful for the lesson.  Margaret was an amazing artist. What she could do with a little brush and pots of paint was astounding. Her paintings were hanging in galleries and selling for $4000.00 each for an original. She came to paint in class with us just for the fun of being around people. She had never even picked up a paintbrush until her late 70’s after her beloved husband had passed away. Then with her children grown and no one at home, she decided to go to college and get a degree. A random art class had led to painting and she never stopped.

I asked her what her secret to long life was.

“Never stop learning” she said. “Keep trying something new. You have to make mistakes and figure things out. Oh, and be stubborn. I’m very stubborn. Oh..and don’t forget to walk. I walk every day.” Margaret was big on walking. Every day, she hauled in twice as much stuff as the rest of us. She parked at the far end of the parking lot and walked briskly to the room. She had two big dogs at home that she claimed to walk every day after her morning meditations.

If you asked her if she wanted help with something, you could expect to get glared at. She may have been a sweet, old lady, but she was unwaveringly independent. She didn’t believe in being beholden to anyone, for anything. She was proud, strong and fiercely young at heart.

I lost contact with Margaret after that semester. I finished the class and moved on with my life. Margaret stayed in school for another 4 years, painting in that same room and making a decent living from selling her art. I was saddened to open the local newspaper one morning to see the headline begin with “Oldest College Student has Died…” with a picture of Margaret and one of my personal favorite paintings on the front page.  She had still been in school at 97 years old.

Next week, I will turn 48. As I begin the march up the “Over the Hill”, and the second act of my life’s “play,” I am starting to get very excited. The teasing about fifty looming in the near future has begun, but it means nothing to me. When I think of Margaret, I feel like a baby bird barely sprouting wings. There is a very long list written down on my “things I want to do while I’m still breathing” list and I’m adding new ones all the time. Before the final curtian comes down in my final act, there is much I want to do, much I want to see.

I feel like a kid at the Baskin and Robbins Ice cream store and I want to try all 31 flavors.  I don’t want to miss anything. I want to know that I have tasted every drop, inhaled every fragrance, and touched every soft and wooly item. Lord, let me experience all that Life has to offer and not miss it in my daily round. Don’t let me wander through life unaware.

Never Stop Learning… Margaret’s secret to a long life. Good advice, and I haven’t forgotten it. All the world is a beautiful school with classrooms in every corner, just waiting to teach anything we are willing to learn, as long as we are willing to listen, down to the last day. We can start over at any time, re-write our scripts, begin a new scene, maybe even come up with a surprise ending.

It’s never too late if you’re breathing. What do you want to know? What do you want to do?  How are you going to get there?