Friday, September 12, 2008

What is beauty?

I was asked that yesterday and I'm still trying to figure out the answer. By complete happenstance I got to meet Martha Rich (and Esther Pearl Watson) when they were visiting where I work. These two artists got a grant to go on a "beauty road trip" as research for a multimedia art project that they will later put together and exhibit. I can't think of a more fun thing to do or really, something more worthwhile than to find beauty in yourself and the other people you meet along the way. Especially when you live in the LA area where the idea of beauty is probably so much different than everyone else's in their isolated pockets of the U.S. (or then, maybe not). I tend to read discovered blogs backwards and I've only gotten as far as Marfa, TX (in their road trip blog) where apparently everyone owns a chainsaw (or two) and life is supernatural at night. It sounds like one fabulous adventure. And those girls were sporting some f*a*b*u*l*o*u*s nails from their beauty experience in Pittsburgh, PA.

So I tried to describe my thoughts on beauty and out came something about the honest true essence of something or something along that line and not sounding anything even mildly coherent but I still sort of believe what I tried to say, if I knew what I was talking about. Errrrgh. I thought I sounded stupid but Martha said I didn't but.... really, I sounded stupid. But then.......then......I started to talk about those damn grasshoppers. WTH? About the moulted shell that I photographed the day before. About how transfixed I was with photographing the fresh grasshopper and its shell and that I did not realize until I turned to go back into the house, that a spider had used my head as an anchor for its own giant art project (I had to fight the web to get back indoors). Gawd. What is it with me and those grasshoppers?

Sherry says that grasshoppers represent the power to leap forward, that we should trust our inner voice and act upon it. And I am so ready at this stage of my life to figure out what that next change should be and go for it confidently. But grasshoppers are all high from eating datura all summer so I'm not sure what kind of symbol that would make them. Stagger forward and drink more wine? I guess that works too.

But I am still fascinated with the little stinkers. After looking at that shell of the grasshopper with all its hairs formerly encapsulated, the eyes, etc., their construction is an amazing design. It's fascinating. When you get to really understand something and just really look at the thing for what it is (and not get freaked out which is my normal way of dealing with grasshoppers), is that beauty?

I think I'll still stick with my incomprehensible blithering about searching for and finding the true nature of something but add one more thing. I think the one thing that I search for in myself (and in others if I can detect it...but usually not) is to find the real part of me that does not have some aspect of trying to please whoever may be in the back of my mind-family, friends, the art directors, people at work, etc. Just my own voice, whatever that is these days.

Valerie always said when it comes to art (or probably anything) you have to please yourself first. And I guess that's the thing I've lost and have been searching for (corporate life can really wear you down).

Do I ever start with the easy solution? No, never. Here's the dictionary definition of beauty...

...the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

Well, no doubt I'll keep thinking about this beauty thing AND grasshoppers tomorrow but for the above definition, one little bird friend comes to mind. My darling Starlinka. Everything about her can be described with the above definition. And her favorite word is the word "beautiful." She is beautiful, I am beautiful, Eddie is beautiful, her feathers are beautful, her eyes are beautiful, Starlinka tries to fit the word beautiful into just about every one of her sentences. So, I may not know what beauty is but I live with a little bird who does and sees it everywhere.


Country Girl said...

I think it's extremely interesting that you tend to read discovered blogs backwards. I don't know why I have never thought of this. It would be better than some of the books I've been reading lately.

Beauty actually makes me cry. And I'll tell you what. Your home looks beautiful, too. I love your colors on your walls, and the way you grouped your pictures! Cute pics, btw of you and your bird!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, hopped over here from Kate's blog (Country Girl). Wow, I'm so glad she shared a link to your blog. Great pictures, wonderful writing. I guess I should go and start at the beginning and read forward...what a good idea on newly discovered blogs!

Now I'm off to read the Road trip Blog.

tj said...

...Hello, I came over here via Kate's blog and I love your blog and love this post! :o)

...Is your bird a crow or blackbird or ???... :> She's beautiful! And I love the fact that you find beauty in things that most would pass by and not give a second thought too. You're special...

...Great place to visit - I'll have to thank Kate...

...Blessings... :o)

tj said...

...Oh, disregard my question...I just read that she is a Starling...I would've never guessed... :o)

...Too cute!

Shimmy Mom said...

What fun. Your bird is beautiful and so are all of your photos. Country Girl sent me over.

Tess Kincaid said...

I can tell we are kindred spirits just from the glimpse of your red walls and hanging prints! So glad to have popped in via the black box widget!! I'll be back soon.


Q said...

Dear Maria,
Some years ago I went on a quest to understand beauty. I read all sorts of books and poetry. I also went on a road trip, 6,000 miles to see the beauty of the USA. I saw lots of beautiful rivers, mountains, ocean, canyons, plants, birds, bugs and animals. I met fantastic, beautiful people and ate incredible, beautiful meals. Had a great, beautifying, facial in Carmel By The Sea, a beautiful name for a city. When I went to a star party, in Yosemite National Park and saw a spiral galaxy, I cried the tears of understanding. What I learned was all of life is beautiful. For we are all made of the stuff stars are made of....
Thank you for this are beauty and beautiful...and your little bird too!
Being anchored to the ground by a spider strand is the most beautiful way. Leap to the stars and come back and tell us all about it. Looking forward to sharing this adventure with you.
Love and light and laughter,

Mary said...

Hi Maria,
I came over from Kate's blog, and I'm so glad I did. Such beautiful pictures, and wonderful writing! Your post on beauty made me think of Keats:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty. that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Maria said...

I am so overwhelmed by everyone's wonderful comments. I didn't finish writing this post until 4 am Friday morning, two hours after I finished my bottle of wine. I had my doubts about even publishing this post because I thought it sounded like something from my pretentious self discovery journals from my late teens. I thought I'd take a look at it fresh in the morning and then delete it if it didn't say what i was trying to say. Woke up Saturday morning and some of you had already posted comments. Four comments while I was sleeping (I know Kate thinks that's cute because I'm so fresh to this blogging thing) but four whole comments! And those kind appreciative comments just kept coming. My computer kept pinging with incoming messages from people who are drawn to the same aspects of beauty...ways of looking at things, insects, art, color, nature, the world. I'm just very, very touched by all of it.

Sherry Bee, you've said things before that have made my eyes get big because you so perfectly described something I was thinking but hadn't figured out how to say it yet (and I've told you that) but your comment here just zapped its way to my little questioning creative soul.

Mary-Ohmigosh-What a perfect quote. I would put that in my header but I'm sure the turtles would stomp all over it.

Willow-I discovered YOUR site on Friday via Kate's Black Box widget. How weird is that??? I've collected a lot of prints from the 17th-20th centuries and need to write about them in future posts. I might put up one today since the grasshoppers seem to have taken off this morning. I think this time they really have taken off.......hold on, I'm going to go check....yep, still gone.

Shimmy Mom and TJ-Thank you. Yes, my Starlinka is beautiful but I'm kind of smitten by all birds, even though they're descended from dinosaurs and act like it sometimes....Stella, just about all the time.

Kacey-Thank you for your comment on my fine writing because I really struggle with it. A lot. Because all I know how to do is compose my thoughts in sentence fragments and run on you can see, sometimes at the exact same time. I'm just happy anyone can make sense of anything I say.

And Kate-Thank you for your encouragement. And for introducing me to your wonderful readers. And reminding me to have fun. I look forward to getting to know you better (and your reader friends!) in the future. :-)


Mental P Mama said...

This is a most amazing site. You seem to be surrounded by magic. Country Girl Kate sent me here, and I am thrilled she did!

Feisty Crone said...

I found you via the Black Box widget, and love your blog. You have another new reader!

Maria said...

MP Mama- I don't know about being surrounded by's been raining and raining and tornado-ing and raining and yesterday when I walked outside, my backyard was covered with pillbugs. They were on the trees, all over the deck, on every plant...millions and millions of them. I had never seen anything like it. I'm thinking they just got tired of being wet and started climbing up to find a dry spot anywhere (and technically they're crustaceans!).

Gran-I just read your blogger bio. I haven't written mine yet. Can I just copy and paste yours? Ha ha ha

Feisty Crone said...

Only if you want to inherit the gut-wrenching experience that generated the bio :)

Thanks, I'm honored!

snakey said...

i love those 3 pictures so much. there is so much "you-ness" in them! :D i find myself smiling and smiling.

i have to say, got a bit choked up thinking of starlinka calling out the beauty all around her. that just seems to be packed with so much meaning. a great post.