In a wonderful conversation, a friend challenged me on my idea of “Beauty” with the suggestion that finding beauty involved judgement. I had said something along the lines of “beauty was like fuel to me”. By that I meant that noticing beauty feels like random awareness, a visual experience of joy.
Never have I even considered that finding beauty was a process of deciding what was beautiful versus what wasn’t. It has always been, for me, a one way flow. Beauty often appears as a sudden flash, almost always visual.
I understood that if I stuck to using words I would not be able to communicate what is in my heart and mind concerning this subject so it’s off to the photo archives to attempt to illustrate my thoughts with images.
There seems to be a widening discrepancy in how much information is personally acceptable when horrible events are happening daily. Many feel the need to turn away because of how awful information affects them, physically and/or psychologically. I find myself turning to the opposite view by seeking material presented or written by very knowledgeable people. (The part about the quality of source becomes a critical distinction.) Folks blathering and parroting partially informed or blatantly political propaganda wears everyone out, raises blood pressure, and anxiety levels. “Scholarly” sources change that. I don’t subscribe to the current “everyone’s opinion counts” viewpoint. I don’t think many of us would purposefully seek medical help from someone not steeped in years of training. I honor that same principle when it comes to history or geopolitical complexities. Seeking knowledgeable sources allows me to think then rethink what is going on thus digging beyond, or beneath, the horror. The challenge, of course, is finding such sources.
Here comes my hypocrisy. Within this past two weeks I found myself in a situation that slammed home the point. I had been watching huge flocks of birds gathering daily out in the waters in front of this house. For five years now I’ve been focusing on what I could learn by simply watching the bird (ducks, mostly) behaviors on a daily basis. Other than using ID-ing guides or websites, I avoided delving into wildlife biology or ornithology tomes for deeper information. In other words, I was “using my intuition” rather than knowledgeable sources.
One morning the numbers of birds was extraordinary, larger than I had seen in the five years I have been here. I wanted to post documentation on a fabulous birding site called MAINEBirds on Facebook. I tried for a panoramic photo and failed. Then I tried shooting a video which I couldn’t seem to upload. In the end I sent one of four photos I’d taken of one of the four rafts (the new term I’d learned for such grouping of birds.) I had referred to these large flocks as being Common Eiders, the species I’d watched out there for five years. Immediately I was corrected by someone who had been out here the day before telling me the birds out there were Scoters not Eiders. I reacted badly.
It took me a few days to understand how I had erred. I’d not used the binoculars to ID those rafts. I made an ill-informed assumption. I wasn’t one hundred percent wrong as at least one of the rafts were Eiders, mostly males. At issue was a piece of information I did not know: apparently Common Eiders have been disappearing along the Maine coast causing much distress and concern among birders, so while I was thinking that the thriving Common Eider flock I’d been watching all this time had actually been taken over by other species, particularly Scoters. I’d committed a classic error: I’d not consulted knowledgeable sources. Now I understand that while I was not completely wrong, I was mostly wrong.
What does this do to my information gathering theory? It proves to me that each of us cannot be experts, even in some of the things we dearly love. It proves to me that searching for accurate information is critical for understanding be it politics or nature. What we don’t know CAN hurt us as well as others.
It’s time to get out the crank that enables me to open my mind. It reminds me that sharing good source material by knowledgeable experts is always necessary.
Note: Here’s the link to a particularly good source for information on the Ukrainian situation. It’s long and worth the reading time.
At least it’s March although thinking that March is a lessening of horrid weather was challenged by one of those FaceBook memory things which popped up. I’d written about the March 3rd Nor’easter in 2018, the storm with the 25 foot waves, a reminder that March is never the easiest month of the year.
Years ago I remember first noticing the deepening of the shadows of trees by late February an indication that the sun was gaining strength daily. By March the sun’s rays pack a real punch noticeable where there are good windows facing south or east or generally on porches or in cars. Our bodies instinctively lean in to those brief moments of light’s warmth and strength. This year after having gotten to the other side of January and February arriving in March seemed significant. It has been an unexpectedly hard winter because of frequent dips into bitter cold, perhaps even more difficult then in deep snow years. Heavy snowfalls don’t usually happen in very low temperatures whereas heavy snows come in the warmer 20’s when the snow is full of moisture and heavy to shovel. Deep snow is also soft and quiet. Deep snow can insulate which is in contrast with screaming winds which tear at the plants and trees, blow birds off course, and leave one’s nerves on edge after hard blows for days at a time.
Weather used to be a passion of mine but it turns out to have another side like everything else. Now I relish the sunny days. Hunkering down through long cloudy or stormy days has become a real challenge. Maybe that’s a normal part of aging or perhaps it is more specifically pandemic related. This is where the tedium comes in. Even in the pandemic’s chaotic beginning, beginning in March 2020, I scoffed at hearing mention of the time we’d be “getting back to normal” knowing there would be no such thing. It has taken both luck and attention and work to stay virus free which has also taken a toll. Still, if we or friends, family, and loved ones stayed healthy it was clear that was a blessing. It may be more so as research learns more about the affects of long Covid along with everything else.
Perhaps it was less work living alone (well, nearly alone) than those who had continual daily contact with family but we’ve not yet begun to measure the affects on the isolation of the older population. We are only just beginning to see the edges of what may have come out of remote learning and/or not being physically present in school. We are now seeing the toll of those in their prime working years and those who are part of what now has been labeled “The Great Resignation”. We may not ever catch up with all of this as those of us on the planet now see the looming possibilities of expanded war and nuclear threats. And then there’s the climate issues that are a part of every location.
Tedium is a mark of the fortunate.The days stretch out moving fast and slow both at the same time. Good days can be measured by doing a puzzle on the sun warmed porch. Bad days may mean no driving and watching end of the driveway filling in, a barrier to getting out, while everything else is blown clear. It’s a challenging tracking what day of the week it is. Days and nights run together. Topsy turvy seems normal.
Is that actually my complaint? To be aware sufficiently to know I am bored with the sameness of things, of the repetitive nature of the days piling into weeks? The world has turned into chaos with flourishes of madness. It’s not always helpful to compare your our lives to the lives of others except when seeing images of people fleeing from tanks and shelling. That clears the head instantly. Tedium has turned into grateful thanks.
I don’t think many of us thought we’d ever see a land war in Europe. Wasn’t that over by 1946? What is being unleashed feels unprecedented. We are moving into uncharted territory.
Tedium may actually be another description for a particular kind of peace, a true blessing.
We protect our soft white underbellies with everything we’ve got yet sometimes, there we are, unexpectedly wide open without intention, exposed in ways we don’t think we can handle.
There are good and bad parts about aging. The bad parts you can imagine: physical pain through various ailments; worry when the word you seek slips just out of reach; an entirely different relationship with ice and snow. We all have our lists. The good parts creep up slowly probably so as not to startle us unnecessarily. What if these new insights prove flighty?
There can be such relief knowing you do not, can not, have all the answers. The more you experience the stronger the sense of mystery becomes. Best of all is realizing that not one being on the planet possesses THE answer. To anything. . There are those that might have thoughts on the matter that you’d like to be true but proof positive is not possible regardless of education, status, wealth, fame, or spiritual reference. We each seem to have a capacity to rise to greatness as well as to fall spectacularly often taking others with us.
Ever so slowly I began to realize finding fault with others had far more to do with me and my process than anything someone else brought to the table. I started to hear stories from people I was learning to trust and within those stories was embedded the experiences that had formed who they were. If my personal experience was far different from someone else that meant there was an opportunity to see the world in a different way. What isn’t necessary is to drop what you know or fall into line with their thinking, or to even accept their conclusions. What hearing another’s story allows in us is the realization that if we had been in their shoes (or skin) we might well have reached the very same conclusions, or made the same decisions. We each have our own experience and if that other person had been in your place they might feel as you do now. This isn’t sympathy nor empathy. It is not exactly compassion either, but it stretches us to a place closer to understanding.
Thus opens our great vulnerability. The only guarantee is that staying here much more than a century is impossible. We are beholding to others as we grow. We are affected by the actions, thoughts, and words of others throughout our life here and none of us knows with certainty what, if anything, comes before or after. Whether we comprehend the intersections we come to with each other, I most want to believe that we, each and every one of us, are doing the best we can with what we know at any given moment. Yup. Even the bad guys.
What a challenge that thought brings as our world now seems so full of chaos and strife. What can we do when individuals and nations are at each other’s throats?
I saw a way through a week or so ago, when a contentious conversation moved from throwing g words into telling snippets of our life’s stories to each other. what had been contentious transformed into searching for commonality and connection by the simple process of listening. It was a tiny thing and a huge one all at the same time.
I’ve felt vulnerable since that morning, however, as if too much was revealed, as if too much was at stake. I do not remember what I said nor how it was that I jumped into the middle of the fray. Remorse followed even though my actions had been formed in a place beyond thought, a place I can trust. Now I want to pull myself back into my den; my courage has failed me. Getting anywhere near being judged by others or encountering barriers in communications with others leaves me shaking.
Will there ever be a time in life, in this here and now, when that particular vulnerability does not carry so much hurt?